Kindness is a funny thing. In dictionary terms it is defined as: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate (noun). That seems pretty simple doesn’t it? You are friendly, you are giving, and you consider the feelings of others, it sounds easy enough to do and easy to be, and yet it is actually quite difficult a thing to do. The bible defines kindness in a more thorough way: The quality of compassion and generosity, characteristic of God’s dealings towards the weak and poor, and demanded of believers. The kindness is also shown in the words and deeds of Jesus Christ (bible gateway). The bible brings into the picture God’s treatment of the weak and the poor. Not only this, but it is now something “demanded” from us as believers, it isn’t just a choice, it’s something you have to be.
All of this had me thinking about why it is difficult to be kind, and I’ve come up with the following thought: kindness is not only intimidating it is embarrassing. Being kind is embarrassing in a society which values humanistic perspectives, independence, strength, the lack of needing or asking for help and getting things done on your own. Kindness can make many people uncomfortable, because it is something we are neither used to giving nor receiving anymore. This world tells you to always look out for number one, to make sure you are relentlessly pursuing your goals and dreams without concern for anyone else because your desires matter most. This world tells you to do it all on your on so you don’t have to rely or ask anyone for favours, this world tells you to not show your weaknesses. Something I’ve never been too great at. People like myself seem to perspire weakness, we cry weakness, we show it, we show the vulnerability and we are easy prey. I’ve been embarrassed about it all of my life, both giving kindness and receiving it. Giving it becomes embarassing when it is met with opposition, with un-gratefulness, and even with hatred. There are moments when I’ve questioned why I even bothered to be kind, and I know that some of you will read this and think: “Because God has called us to be and our reward is in Him” and you’re absolutely correct, we are called to be kind. Our reward is in Him. But that doesn’t make things all that much better when you’re standing on the other side of an absolute catastrophe thinking: “why in the world did I get involved in this situation?”. It is not always that kindness is taken for granted, but when it is, it becomes very difficult for the one who’s giving it out. It starts out small, with things like letting someone borrow something one day, and then someone doesn’t return it and you never let someone borrow the thing again. Sometimes it’s giving money to a homeless person to later find out they were using it for drugs, or alcohol. Sometimes it’s the friends we have helped in times of need who have betrayed us later on; and sometimes quite frankly, it’s just that feeling of believing that the eyes of society will deem you as weak and naive, because you are kind. So the kindness ends. We realise we can’t save anybody or anything.
Now of all the things I can say about kindness (and there are many) one of the things that sticks out the most is the fact that kindness in its purest of forms feels rather good. Both giving it, and receiving it. It feels good when I help someone with something, it makes me happy when I make a gift for someone and they really love it, or when I take them out to lunch and it cheers them up. I get this spark in my day when I’ve had a long conversation with a friend in need and at the end of it, they’ve said they felt better. There have been many people who have taken my kindness for granted, but did kindness take me for granted? The answer is no, kindness never takes you for granted. It satisfies you right in the moment when it’s given, it warms your heart at the instant and makes you feel that despite the mess that you consider yourself to be, something is right in your life. Maybe you’ll seem weaker than most, maybe you’re not perfect and you just got to ask for help, so what? So what if they see you feeding that homeless guy on your way to work? Also, what if you can’t give as much kindness as you want to give? Should that stop you from giving them bit that you can? I’ve been asking myself these questions lately.
See, there’s a homeless man who is always at one of the metro stops near my last flat here in Spain. He sits there all the time, and he’s quite older, there are a lot of others ones, I know, I’ve noticed them too. But he was probably the first one that caught my eye when I moved here. At first (and being the introvert I am) I was terrified to say hello, I just thought that he would think I’m another one of those spoiled rich girls who have nothing in common with him, and would therefore have absolutely nothing good to say. I know in my heart that perhaps that wasn’t the case, but that’s what I thought in the moment, and maybe it’s what I still think. I looked at him for the first week of being here and did nothing, but by the second week I decided to buy him a few meals. I gave them to him, and everytime he wished me luck. I thought it was so ironic, that someone sitting on a floor for hours a day, looking up at everyone would wish someone luck, the luck perhaps he knows he’s never had. Later on in the week I asked some religious group which was standing in a corner nearby passing out flyers, if there was a place or an organization that helped people like this man. They immediately began to explain how he has a place to be, and how they shelter and care for seniors here, and how he possibly just wanted extra money and that’s why he begged. But it didn’t make sense to me, he gobbled down that meal in a way which only someone who hasn’t eaten well would do, I wasn’t satisfied with their answer. As time went on I moved away to another area of town, and I didn’t have access to see this man again, but recently I’m back where I used to be and I’ve seen him. He’s still there, begging for coins, for food, maybe for a nice chat. Who knows… I know God sees him, but perhaps my own feelings of inadequacy and not considering myself wealthy nor daring enough to offer help have somehow ceased to see him and many others. That’s the funny thing about kindness, we measure it, or at least we think we can. We believe that if we can give only a useless bit of it, it won’t matter to the person receiving it, and therefore we shouldn’t give it at all. Maybe I think that I can’t be as kind as I want to be, and so I look past the situations I feel I can’t intervene with, and for the most part this is quite logical. There are endless amounts of causes, charities, shelters, societies, so many things in which we could be passionate and involved. There are so many, that sometimes I feel that I would either burst from within in trying to save everything, or I would sit down comatose and not save anything at all.
So what can I do? What can we do? I think the answer is, whatever we actually can do. I know I won’t always be able to donate money, or give anything. I know I won’t be able to be a good friend all the time, there will be moments when I won’t be. But for starters… perhaps I won’t be so embarrassed to show love to someone, and to let them know that they are special to me. Maybe I’ll ask for help, I’ll tell them I’m struggling, I’ll actually tell them I need someone to talk to. A few nights ago I was quite weak, and I actually let the light shine on the weakness which was spewing out of my every being and I didn’t care anymore. So I spoke, I said things, and someone was there for me. It was an unusual experience for someone like me, but it was a good one. A bad day, turned into a good day, and this person, being just a person, with weaknesses and dilemmas and issues and imperfections just like me, managed to bring sun into my world at that moment. This person showed me kindness. I don’t know what will be of that person, I don’t know the future, and I don’t even know what they think of me for being me, for being weak, or if I’m able to be kind to them in the same way. But I do know that kindness, gives you instant satisfaction, and that every time you actually remember kindness whether given or received, you smile a little bit.