On Kindness

If kindness were a fabric, would it be silk, smooth to the touch, with a rumble of tight weaves concealed beneath the smooth surface? Linen, porous and transparent, keeping everything light? Would it be honest cotton, versatile and as ready to take on print dyes as it is to contort itself into the most diverse of uses?

Kindness is the fabric of a good life. Without it, love won’t last very long. People won’t take the time to understand one another, so peace in cities might be little more than an abstract idea.

From personal experience, the church is one of the places that teaches kindness. The emphasis of kindness is a bit on you being ready to be the fall guy. Like Jesus was. Where everyone is struggling to not be the idiot, there is no kindness. Only mistrust, and unhappiness, and accusatory behavior.

The design of any city or country I have loved has always had kindness woven into the very fabric of its people. Sometimes it is because of a doctrine of kindness; the places where every man is for himself, do not have this outward-reaching attitude. And why should they, they think. Everyone else is grabbing what they can. Everyone else will do this, if they got the chance. This is funny. I’m having fun. This behavior resonates from one individual to the other, then within a couple, across the members of a household, a neighborhood, a city. You visit and feel the “every man for himself” vibe. The place is physically beautiful, but you can’t put a finger on what is missing. It is the kindness.

Kindness is complex, because it is not just about the first move. If your first move is kind, but is met with unkindness, e.g. the recipient of your kindness takes you for granted, you can’t then say, “I have tried”, and then begin to take them and others for granted, The next move still has to be kind, the doctrine of “How many times shall I forgive my brother? Seventy-times-seven times,” i.e. until you have lost count.

But you must be kind to yourself, too. And perhaps you must be kind to yourself first, because only out of a nurtured heart can true kindness flow. So, for example, if you practice forgiveness to the point that it leaves you unhappy, you should not remain in that situation. That can cross over from kindness to victimhood. Be kind to yourself.

Kindness shows in how we express things, the words we choose, how we gesture to others, how we respond when someone says something we deem unpleasant to us, in our first words to a stranger. There is such a thing as a kindly disposition. The elderly men and women I adore the most, have that: a face that tells a story of contentment and of kindness. It is not wealth-based.

I am really happy to finally put this evaluation of kindness down in words. It is such a weird topic to care about, but I have been giving it a lot of thought. My hope for you is that you meet people who are kind, whether they are smooth like silk or lightweight like linen or honest like cotton. That their kindness will be the weft around which other facets of their personality are warped. It won’t matter. They will all come together to make your heart a beautiful and happy place.