Friday, August 16, 2013

On Kindness and its Absence

I just read this powerful article.

It resonated with me, especially now, as I turn over in my mind what makes a person kind. I consider myself quite fortunate, as I've probably encountered two or three people in my adult life that I would describe as truly unkind. That is, lacking a basic compassion and care for others that I've always assumed is present at birth and either expanded or diminished according to one's life experiences.

What I realize now, at almost 38 years old, is that there is a connection between kindness and hardship. Nearly everyone I know has experienced it: loss and its attending grief, illness, emotional pain, disability, health catastrophes, accidents, and the list goes on... For the few (very few) that I've encountered over the years that truly showed little to no compassion, empathy, or even basic kindness, they had one thing in common: they've ambled through their lives with no real bumps in the road. Not that life is perfect for anyone, but these few folks have experienced no traumatic stresses, no real want, no heartache. Their lives have been sheltered from the first, and they have wandered from year to year, unable to relate to other's pain, unable to tap into the depths of their souls that life normally creates as it hands out its hard knocks. Unreal.

Conversely, the kindest people I know are the ones who have suffered the greatest. These folks have been through things that would have left me crushed like a bug on a windshield. And I hate that they've had to endure so much, but I'm also in awe of the light they project, the kindness, the awareness of life outside of themselves. 

So, as we allow our various heartaches to soften into kindness, I offer the words of George Saunders, from the above linked speech: "Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet."