Nov 13, 2008
For National Kindness Day
Does anyone know where the little boy went?
The little boy who used to be me?
He’s still alive somewhere inside this shell
Though the shell is all you can see.
Can you still see him reaching out for love
From behind these time-worn eyes?
The child with a heart as bright as the stars
Hiding beneath this thin disguise?
What a cruel trickster Father Time can be
Changing our costumes as we age.
From infant to child, and from young to old,
A new character with every stage.
We might as well be four different people.
The adult barely resembles the child.
The external transformation is so complete,
Young and old are rarely reconciled.
But there are some whose eyes still twinkle,
For whom the child within never dies.
The outside world can see only the surface
Only they know how their surface lies.
What can we learn from all this changing?
From the fact that nothing is real?
How can we judge by a deceptive facade
That hides the way we truly feel?
The way to get the whole picture, it seems
Is to think of everyone that we see
As the child they were, who they are today,
And the old person they soon will be.
We should also see them as dead and gone,
Their short life on earth finally done,
With all their trials rendered null and void,
All their battles either lost or won.
Whitman wrote, "The powerful play goes on
And you may contribute a verse."
The same is true for every person we meet.
We make their lives better or worse.
Thus, we should measure disheartening words
And make sure they need to be spoken
So we won't be among those who caused dismay
If they reach the end of life heartbroken.
And when those we've known are old and gray,
Remembering years they left behind,
Comforting words we said might return again
With the memory that we were kind.
I don't always succeed in applying it, but this is one of my core philosophies.
Adults might be a little kinder to each other if they acknowledged the fact that the child still lives just below the surface, with all the same needs for love, acceptance and maybe a little praise. Praise an adult and you'll see their face light up the same way a child's does. We're all just children with bigger vocabularies.
I got mad at someone once and was about to open up a can of whoop *** when a friend of mine said, "Think about why he's acting that way. It's a cry for help more than anything else." I decided he was right so I tried kindness instead and the "jerk" ended up telling me his life story - a story of death and loss and heartbreak - the real reason for his behavior. As well as seeing the child in adults, I also try to imagine the old person they will become, and meditate on whether or not I want them to remember me as just another person who reacted blindly to their surface behavior, or as someone who tried to help them with a kind word or gesture. And if that's impossible and the best I can do is ignore them, at least I'm not adding to their pain. I don't think the power of a kindness can ever be under-estimated. Who knows what changes the reverberations can lead to?
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."
- Aesop (620 BC - 560 BC), The Lion and the Mouse
"The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. The trite subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, luxury have always seemed to me contemptible."
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"There are no thanks for a kindness, which has been delayed."
"Compassion is the basis of all morality."
- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
"There is no duty more obligatory than the repayment of kindness."
- Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)
"Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses."
- Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC)
"Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness."
- Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC), The Confucian Analects
"I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
- Ettiene De Grellet
"Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness."
- George Sand (1804-1876)
"Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change someone else's life forever."
- Margaret Cho, weblog, 03-11-04
"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."
- The Dalai Lama (1935 - )
"That best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love."
- William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Written March 28th, 2006