In this summer of violence we experience as Americans a divided nation, social edges frayed by hostility and confused by self-serving, awkward, and politically skewed interests.
In faith and understanding what I offer today is to express our obligation to find reason and strength by reinforcing common values in favor of our long-term survival and the longevity of the nation that serves our generation and the future prospects of our offspring. It’s an endorsement for kindness, as a cohesive device for bonding –a psychological tool for a better, more positive point of view.
In the last month I’ve had doubts about my ability to write on kindness, given recently I have failed at moments, but today, overcoming questions, hopefully represent a road map for us to consider.
For those, as myself tricked by justification, all I can offer are methods of understanding, but first let’s consider a few lines of a song I remember sung by Benny King:
STAND BY ME
“… no matter who you are
No matter where you go in life
At some point you’re going to need
Somebody to stand by you…”
If you choose by imagination Barnaby’s Fairy Godfather, let’s say an imagined alter ego, you run the risk of redundant thinking where logic becomes circular and stalls growth; but if you choose to join the greater society, think beyond yourself, you have the potential of emotional growth, to build bonds with the greater society, for example as referenced to Christ in Mathew 22:39: “Though shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
I offer for your consideration the use of kindness, and to grow by building bridges, inviting those to whom you offer kindness to stand by you, as a useful reinforcement of the good in you, shared with others.
In my own case, I’ve had to ask myself to go deeper than my potential to show kindness, to breakdown a wall of defense. Not easy, but what is offered today is the potential to understand the social benefit of kindness.
There is no society of one. As fragile as our present nation may be, kindness I recommend builds character and community. I pose it’s good for the mind, let me add a nourishment for the soul, indeed a confidence builder, a well-installed reminder that actions speak louder than our more persuasive thoughts.
Some sympathetic words for understanding kindness include compassion, benevolence, sympathy, humanity, and helpfulness. I’d like to explain to you this morning the thoughts of others, who have given to acts of kindness.
Walter Cronkite, noted at a broadcast convention I attended in the mid-sixties… an insightful reminder. The CBS anchor and distinguish broadcaster was talking about the value of a good dog story as a capper in the news, but he paused and reflected: “…that theoretically man’s best friend should be man, but it’s been a longtime coming.” Change may be slow, yet with hopes unfilled –a nasty fall of spirit– we are compelled in the interest of emotional survival to keep trying for personal growth.
Recall the New Testament as a guidepost for understanding kindness inspired by example, as in the teachings of Jesus Christ. We hopefully expect these models to come from our leaders and social guides whether in the White House, or by state governors, eleemosynary associations, neighbors, from our parents, guardians, and the pulpit. As Cronkite quips, it doesn’t quite work this way. Presently kindness seems limited, but I insist needed now more than ever in our everyday lives.
This is a talk about what it means to be kind. For example is kindness an honest gesture or a tool used as a manipulated device, for exploiting others? Unfortunately, the answer is yes to both points of view.
As positive reinforcement be pleased to know World Kindness Day is internationally celebrated on November 13th , and one would think the fact of its’ recognition would include a day off from work, yet few in the USA know of its’ existence. Perhaps we should paint the date on the streets of America.
Equally understand these four letters K I N D, have been in use for over 500 years, offering a positive gesture of support.
Benevolence is a kind-of-kindness, but let’s start with Eric Fromm’s thoughts on love, as a significant generator endorsing kindness:
“ I love you also myself.” Self-love, in this sense, is the opposite of selfishness. Love, paradoxically, makes me more independent because it makes me stronger and happier. In loving I experience “I am you,” you — the loved person, you — the stranger, you — everything alive. In the experience of love lies the only answer to being human.”
In my words: “Overcome hatred with love; and remember kindness is not weakness.”
For insight: We can heal someone with kindness, forgive foolishness out of the kindness, and take nourishment from the milk of human kindness. Such thinking helps to bring a gesture of kindness to others, making us better for the offering.
Abe Lincoln delivered a good example of kindness at Gettysburg, in recent history Ronald Reagan touched on his sensitivity after the Challenger explosion, more recent Obama voiced his compassion, adding tears after the Sandy Hook shooting: “shared vulnerability and our natural sympathy for one another,” as noted by the esteemed columnist A.J. Doyle.
Casual research reveals that the word kindness ranks in the top 30% for usage, which suggest it’s use is an important constant in our collective minds. The word holds historical reference implying sensitivity and our natural sympathy for one another. Kindness, the word root, was used before the 12th century and obviously is still in use today.
In 2020 we seem to need kind thoughts and gestures, a contemporary application, understanding the word kindness offers a dimension of understanding as a sincere offering, a gift-of-grace to enhance the human condition.
Definitions include the quality or state of being kind treating people with kindness and respect, a kind deed, a benefit as “You did me a great kindness”. To speculate: in the primitive sense think of an affection built into our persona from birth.
Suggested alternative words for kindness include a boon, courtesy, favor, grace, indulgence, mercy, and service. Lots of wiggle room for expressing kindness and its use, but for motivation consider some amending examples.
We see instances of our brothers and sisters “paying it forward” add a trumpet message that kindness will change our lives for the better. Consider kindness to you is kindness to me –to extend this thought, consider in fact kindness to yourself is kindness to others, in fact builds an internal strength. It is suggested kindness improves mental health, helps to make the world a better place by celebrating and promoting good deeds.
It was Henry James who wrote in the early 20th Century emphasizing humankind’s cardinal virtues and most cherished social currencies to be: “The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind”. Kindness to children is considered a key to their happiness, clearly makes us happier parents. Theoretically it works against the cyberbully. Kindness and self-compassion go hand-in-hand.
I have offered the thoughts of others more qualified than myself to explain kindness but understand what we share with each other has a meaning that goes beyond the hidden conflicts of our childhood and human foible common to our adult lives.
If we give-up trying as a society, based on the divisive fractions that seem to separate us, we run the risk of failing.
This is an appropriate time, if you accept basic Quaker principles, as I understand them, to accept the obligation to speak on the conviction that there are solutions to present conflicts, to offer reasons why peaceful resolution, passive resistance and nonviolence are good examples supporting peace on our streets and in our hearts, a kind gesture in the face of contemporary conflicts, asserting the intrinsic value of humanity.
Recall a recent TV public service advisory: Restore Hope; Dream Again.
I learned many years ago that the eyes are the gateway to the soul. Beside mugging on stage, I ask you with kindness intended, not to look away from our obvious present national conflicts, for it offers a potential danger that obscures our willingness to make positive change seeking betterment of all, all that represents us as Friends. As Francisco Burgos, recently posed: “Accept the challenge”.
What I have avoided in this essay is a comment on the lack of trust in evidence between the police and the civilian, between citizen and government. These are less than obvious issues that will not be easily resolved. The threat is understandable, the outcome deeper than my comprehension.
I do hope historians will be kind to us, and civility will prove a good measure of a core understanding that “United we stand and divided we fall”.
Use of guns, nightsticks and tear gas is not a solution, but a desperate failing of reason, a measure of self-interest and the reckless craving for control, that seems a spear in the side of our democratic traditions. Who of us will rise beyond protest, to endorse a mutual kindness that offers prosperity over willful self-destruction?
Thank you for your courtesy this morning. Suggesting a weakness for whimsey: I consider it a gesture of your kindness.
Like King’s song imbedded in this talk:
“If the sky we look upon… should tumble and fall; though mountains should crumble to the sea…” (kindly) stand by me”. #
This message was given by Walter Simon to Spokane Friends Meeting for Worship on August 9, 2020.
(Dedicated to LaVerne Biel and family for their recent kindness.)