“Be nice to one another. Be kind”. It’s the sort of thing that we say when we’ve intervened between two squabbling children. The word ‘kind’ can come across as a bit soft and fluffy. Yet it’s more than that.
Last Autumn the BBC Radio 4 programme All in the Mind teamed up with the University of Sussex to find out what people thought and felt about kindness. They wanted to know about its effects on people’s health and well-being. Thousands of people completed the survey and the results are expected in the Spring.
But do we need a survey to know the power of kindness? If we have experienced it, we know the power of kindness. It’s there in a touch, a word, a gesture. Someone listening, making a phone call, smiling, or stopping to talk to us. During the pandemic, how many acts of kindness have helped people to survive?
In the Old Testament the Psalmist often speaks of God’s ‘loving kindness’. Ruth demonstrates kindness and support to her mother-in-law, Naomi, in insisting on accompanying her back to her home town of Bethlehem after both their husbands die. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul says that kindness is one of the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ and he urges the people of Ephesus to “Be kind and compassionate to one another”.
Kindness is about love and connection. It is allied to compassion, that commitment to put ourselves in the place of the other, to stand alongside them and to do what we can to lift their spirits and relieve their suffering. And it can be expressed in a thousand different ways.
Be kind to one another. That’s all there is to life. Be at peace. St. Columba