My husband and I have a new aspiration: to do an act of kindness for someone each and every day. It shouldn’t be hard to do…but sadly, it’s a bit hard to remember. I go through many of my days without thought and am certainly not thinking of anyone else.
When I do think about giving, whether it is time, money or gestures; I am forced to examine my motives. Do I give gladly and from the heart or do I give from distance? Is it a thoughtful gift, or do I click a button, write a check, or drop cash in a basket without connection or true caring? Is that kindness?
I’m a big fan of Kiva and Women for Women, etc. so I believe in giving by clicking. But it isn’t the same as a kind act, is it? Maybe it does more for humankind but does it further my own humanity? Not so much. It’s good that I am touched by the needs of others. And I need more from myself: not instead of…but in addition to.
I have given from distance in hopes that I will never be in the same plight. I have given, thinking, “Thank God, this could never be me”. I have given with a feeling that I am somehow better, not for the giving, but as the giver. In the depths of my heart I know that “There but for the grace of God…” but I am the happiest when I can be in denial and believe that where I am and who I am is a result of my own doing. These are definitely not acts of kindness!
I want to be aware of those around me. I want to help the person who looks lost and confused on the street of our small town. I want to step up and to the clerk and translate for the old Latino woman who can’t understand the question. I want to notice the man in a wheelchair who can’t quite get over the curb and out of the street. I can give him that extra push. I understand these difficulties and want to give back what I’ve received from others. Yes, but this is still “tit for tat”, isn’t it? It isn’t really kindness.
I need to go further. When I take things to the mission, I want to look the homeless men in the eye and acknowledge that I see their situation and don’t judge. I want to hold the hand of the old woman and walk her all the way to her house even if it makes me late. And I want to do it with interest and attention so that she knows I am with her and not thinking about my own destination. I want to give two bags of groceries to the people down the street who have been out of a job for several months. Then I want to remember them tomorrow and the next day.
Most of all, I want to know that I am these people. What affects them affects me. What they live through lives with me. I want my heart to hurt with the pain of our side-by-side existence being so different in this world and try to do something about it.
That will be kindness.