Looking for peace and sanity in difficult times?
The answer may be simpler "“ and closer "“ than you think.
Some think it's a sign of weakness. But having a kindly attitude toward others and toward life isn't weak. It's a sign of strength, because only the strong can be gentle.
When I think of kindness, I think of Nelson Mandela, as he was portrayed by Morgan Freeman in the movie "Invictus."
Kindness — a kindly attitude and spirit — was not something that got turned off or turned on in him according to circumstances.
Far from it. It was part of his character. It was part of his strength. Whether he was in jail, suffering injustice at the hands of his oppressors — or whether the situation reversed, and he was in a position of power over the former apartheid rulers — his resolute, but kind-hearted spirit never wavered.
It's the reason his jailer was drawn to him and they became enduring friends.
It's why he was able to come through his dreadful ordeal in prison, forgive his oppressors and unite his country behind him.
A small kindness can last a lifetime
It's remarkable how a small kindness can last a lifetime. I can still remember the surprise and delight that welled up in me during World War II when for some unknown reason my father, who was overseas in the Army, sent me a subscription to a British yachting magazine.
Perhaps my mom had written him about my love of the sea and boats. In any case, when the first issue arrived — as I say, totally unexpectedly — it immediately became one of my most treasured possessions. I pored over each issue like a mother cherishing her new baby. Every night when my aunt lit the Aladdin lamp and brought in a bowl of apples for our snack (no electricity of course in our remote north Devon cottage) there I was studying my yachting magazine.
A visit from an angel
I experienced a similar moment last evening when the doorbell suddenly rang around 6 or 6.30. A heavy snow was falling not only over Loveland but over the whole of Colorado and beyond. Who could that possibly be? my wife and I wondered.
I wasn't sure whether to get up and open the door or not, but an inner voice said go ahead. Shivering in the cold but with a big smile on her face was a 12-year-old Angel from across the street named Kirsten.
She had one of her Mom's warm, freshly baked loaves of bread to give us along with a small cup of butter. "Kirsten, you shouldn't be out on a night like this," I said as I took the gift from her — but her smile simply got bigger. We chatted for a brief moment, her hands clutching her coat close to try to stay warm, then she turned and ran back home with footsteps as light as snowflakes.
Not only was the bread a blessing. The beautiful spirit that made the bread and brought it to us was a blessing too.
Kindness can't be forced
True kindness has a natural, spontaneous quality to it. It's not something that can be forced, or faked.
I came across a great quote about this at www.akinderworld.com. "One cannot invent kind acts by searching for people to be kind to or by brainstorming ideas about kindness. Life is all around us and all life needs kindness"¦. most of the time, it just takes a tiny word, a scribbled line of thought, an act of sympathy, a smile or a nod in the right time and place to bring sunshine to the life of another person."
Ultimately, when we speak of kindness, we are speaking of Love, aren't we, the great mysterious force that does indeed make our tiny speck of a planet go around — along with all the other planets and galaxies and universes in existence.
When you open your heart to kindness, you open your heart to your own integrity, to your own divine nature. Stay with it, and you will find with absolute assurance and certainty that any feelings of emptiness or discouragement will surely dissipate just like the snow that fell so heavily in our area last night is dissipating even now in the sun's presence.
Be alert to the kindness of others
There are two aspects to kindness. There is what we ourselves express into life that is compassionate and kind, helpful and creative — a blessing to our fellow humans, or to nature. But equally important is being alert and open to the kindness which comes to you from others — thankful for what they add to your life.
The truth is, life sets a feast before us constantly. The waitress who smiles and asks how you are doing as she passes you your meal or your cup of coffee. The inquisitive dog straining at its leash, insisting on saying hello to you as you walk past in the park.
The more we open ourselves to see and appreciate the kindness of others — and the more we express a kindly spirit in our own lives — the more we know the love that is at the core of all being.
Mark Twain put it so well: "Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."