Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 1st August 2021.
Struggling a few days ago to think of a topic for my reflection today, my eye stopped on a word in a book I was reading. The word was ‘kindness’.
Kindness can be a very small thing and cost nothing. But it’s impact can be great, and can result from something as simple as a smile, a hug, a word, an acknowledgment, a gesture, or a courtesy shown. It can be anything which makes the recipient feel better, or feel wanted, or feel respected or feel loved.
And kindness can not only benefit the recipient, it can make the giver feel better, and it may also warm the heart of someone who witnesses a kindness.
Kindness was part of the philosophy of Mother Teresa:
“Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. In the slums we are the light of God’s kindness to the poor. To children, to the poor, to all who suffer and are lonely, give always a happy smile – give them not only your care, but also your heart.”
How often do we miss opportunities for little acts of kindness? For example, I expect we are all guilty from time to time of taking for granted those closest to us. We see them so often, so we assume we know that they are all right, that they do not need our help or attention. So we may not be constantly showing little acts of kindness to them and acknowledging them. But the danger is that, if we are not regularly acknowledging them, they may feel neglected, they may feel that we don’t care about them or how they are feeling.
The very smallest act of kindness we can offer is a smile. They say a smile costs nothing. This is what the late American writer Dale Carnegie said on the subject:
“A smile costs nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive without impoverishing those who give. It happens in a flash, and the memory of it sometimes lasts for ever. None are so rich that they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits. It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and Nature’s best antidote for trouble. Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody till it is given away.”
Carnegie says that “the memory of [a smile] sometimes lasts for ever”, and I am sure that the same can apply to any act of kindness. A couple of years ago, I sat next to a member of the congregation in Longthorpe Church. I have known for many years. He said to me, “Do you remember, ten years ago, when we were sitting in the choir pews on our own, and I told you that I had just been diagnosed with cancer. You put your arm around me and comforted me. I have never forgotten that.” (Since then he has made a complete recovery.) I had forgotten all about it, but when he mentioned it I recalled that he had been on the verge of tears at the time, and trying to comfort him just seemed the natural thing to do. Until he reminded me, I had forgotten all about it, but he hadn’t forgotten.
Kindness is about doing something that will improve the well-being of our ‘neighbour’, whether that be someone we know and love, or someone we meet, or those we will never know (as when we make a gift to a charity to benefit those less fortunate than ourselves).
The essence of kindness is love. In Chapter 12 of St. Mark’s Gospel, a scribe asks Jesus ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answers, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ (Mark 12:29-31)
So Jesus reduced all the commandments, laws and regulations observed by the Jews of his day down to those two basic commandments.
The American author Henry James went further:
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Kindness can be infectious – a smile from one person may evoke a smile from another; generosity by one person may encourage generosity from another; and so on. It doesn’t always work. As I said hello to every passer-by as I walked around Ferry Meadows last Saturday, I would think that half of them did not even give me eye contact, let alone a reply! But if kindness has the potential for being infectious, I’m all for encouraging a kindness pandemic now. How about you?!