Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kindly Be Kind

“Kindness is the act or the state of being kind, being marked by good and charitable behavior, pleasant disposition, and concern for others.”  Wikipedia, a free dictionary

     I was most likely in the middle of a diatribe; dissing someone who, at the moment, had fallen into my disfavor. My moaning and groaning was apparently assaulting my dad’s ears. He sighed, put down the paper, and looked at me with disappointment and sadness.

      I would have rather been smacked than to have incurred one of Dad’s disapproving glances.“You know,” he began, “when someone tells you that you’re kind, it is the best compliment you can ever hope to get.” He picked up his paper and continued reading.  Bull’s-eye!  His words, although sparse, hit exactly where he had intended…right on my heart. The message was clear; “Would it hurt you to be kind?”

      My father was a wise man. He often likened himself to the immortal cowboy philosopher and humorist, Will Rogers. Using Roger’s own words, my father would exclaim, “I’ve never met a man (person) I didn’t like.” My dad meant every word.  I tried at the age of 15 to embrace that philosophy too. But it wasn’t easy for me.

      I don’t ever recall my dad being unkind or critical of himself or others.   He took people at face value, and he got burned once in awhile.  But when he did, he did not berate himself for being unwise or naive. He just assumed that the person who had burned him did so out of necessity, not out of malice. It never occurred to him that people just plain chose to be unkind.

      As I think about my dad’s words of wisdom, I know that by virtue, he was a kind gentle man, with a pleasant disposition. He was charitable in his deeds as well as in his words. He was the man whom many came to for many things. He played with the neighborhood kids, he loaned money as well as advice. He had many friends of his own, and was highly respected in our community.  One of the elderly ladies in my home town told me that my dad’s funeral was one of the “best attended” of any funeral she had ever been to—high praise from a regular funeral attendee.  No doubt that it was true, as my father “never met a person he didn’t like.”

      As I have become older, and hopefully wiser, I have come to realize that kindness begins at home, with the very person who needs it the most…you.  But it’s hard to be kind when you are your own worst critic.  In my own life, I have found that in order to be genuinely kind to others, it is imperative to be kind to myself.

      I also know that there are benefits to being kind.  I find when I look at myself, as well as others, through kind non-critical eyes, my heart rate remains calm, my blood pressure doesn’t rise, and I obtain a sense of well being. I smile more often than not, and value my life and others’ a little more.  

      When I look at myself in the mirror, I try not to see the wrinkles and the double chin. I rest upon my eyes mostly, and acknowledge the kindness in them.  And when other people don’t act or say the things that I would do or say, I try hard not to judge. I believe, like my father, that most people behave the way they do out of necessity.   

     The physiological effects of kindness are valuable to a survivor. The philosophical awareness of kindness is equally as valuable.  Kindness is a choice. It is a state of mind. It is far better to handle difficult people and situations through kindness, because when you have a sense of well being—a nice steady heart beat, and a cool head—those situations are more easily solved. That “difficult” person may just turn into someone you actually like. Pretty soon you may even become a Will Rogers, or a Claude Charlton--”never  met a person…”