The Power of Simple Kindness
Forty or so of us stood in a large circle ringing the side
of the interview room of the emergency relief food pantry where I
work. What a circle, I thought, as I do every time I join the
daily opening ritual. Talk about diversity! Our circle that
morning was a rainbow of human colors. The circle reflected
almost every category of human diversity -- race, religion,
economic/class status, educational experience, generation,
national origin, size, and shape. What a circle.
As we stood holding hands and preparing for an opening
prayer, I overheard a conversation. Across the circle stood a man
about 40 years old. He looked "down on his luck" to say
the least. Thin, soiled, hungry, most likely hung over and
needing work, the man held hands with one of our volunteers. The
woman stood with a bright smile on her face, ready for the day to
begin. She turned to her new neighbor and warmly welcomed him
with a big smile.
As they talked, I heard him say, "That smile is
better than money. Thank you!"
I didn't follow up with him or her. I just watched and
learned. No doubt, he received food, good counsel and possibly
even a job lead or a referral to our employment training program
before he left our building. But nothing we provided could
compete with the feeling afforded by a simple smile from a
genuine heart. The human connection literally lifted the man. The
smile filled him with hope and a sense of personal worth.
I routinely underestimate the importance and power of simple
human kindness. My experience in the circle that morning stays
with me. And, I've reached the following conclusions about
kindness and my daily activities.
- Kindness costs nothing but the effort to live with an
awareness of other people, their needs and their
- Kindness flows out of me only as I train myself to
produce and extend it. People who give attention to the
important concerns of their inner life are able to
naturally extend kindness out of the "overflow"
to others. I must start on my heart if I am to live as a
truly kind person.
- Everyone is both needy and wealthy. All of us have needs.
All of us have rich gifts to bring to life. My needs may
not be material, but they are just as real and pressing.
Just because a person is poor, ragged or hungry, does not
mean he or she has no wealth to share with me. Kindness
toward all begins with an awareness that all of us are
basically the same, only circumstances and environments
- Kindness unites people. Kindness overcomes seemingly
insurmountable barriers. Kindness bridges vast chasms.
- Kindness is power. The power inherent in simple kindness
changes lives, inspires hope and leads to significance.
I saw it in the circle with my own eyes. I'll never be the
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