Within all of us is the capacity for kindness

February 4, 2013 

My thanks to The Olympian for the invitation to participate on the 2013 Board of Contributors. I recently returned to Olympia after a 65-year absence.

In the early 1940s, I carried a newspaper route of 170 customers. Because The Daily Olympian published no Saturday newspaper, I spent the day collecting 20 cents from each family. I kept five cents.

I. In the twinkling of an eye, we may experience violent behavior and overwhelming kindness. Recall your feelings and actions during the devastating storms, the tragic mass killings, the collapse of the Twin Towers; then, almost on cue, people rushed to help, offering their bodies as living sacrifices.

We may never find ourselves in obvious chaotic crises. Yet every day, in many ways, we have opportunities to make a difference in peoples’ lives, to express deliberate random acts of kindness.

During the next 24 hours, I invite you to make a list of each. Or, we can offer no concern, because the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference.

II. The popular song urges us to “Try a little kindness.” We often use “try” to keep people at a distance. For example, “I’ll try to see you Thursday.” No show.

When someone plays the “try” game with me, I respond: “People who try are very trying. People who do, do.” Act now, or the world, your world, my world will die from lack of kindness.

We have the energy to make enormous differences in peoples’ lives.

In 1945, I did everything in my obnoxious repertoire to force my pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church to reject me. He refused, or I would, in no way, be writing this column.

Even if it seems that no one notices our behavior, someone does. Someone, or many someones, need to hear our gracious words and see our kind acts, which create joy, hope, faith, love.

III. I now invite us to look at kindness from the all-too-familiar parable of the Good Samaritan.

Much teaching goes this way: Act as the Good Samaritan; do not act as the two religious leaders who scooted on by, justifying their excuses along the way.

This puts the Samaritan in a position of positive power, the religious leaders with negative control, and the injured fellow in the ditch as powerless.

The healthiest interpretation, however, puts each of us in the ditch needing the kindness of someone to pull us out, to comfort, nurture, heal, love us.

Question: will we accept the unconditional kindness of others? Or, do we insist on controlling the scene?

IV. Here is my approach to the parable. I reaffirm daily this New Year’s resolution: What is the kindest, most loving thing I can say or do at this moment?

This requires sensitivity, alertness, humility and courage ... yes, courage to take the initiative. Think how often we wait for the other, including our mate, our parents, our children, to make the first move, even when we behave as the stupid fool.

Take the initiative to show kindness to those who clean our streets and sidewalks, to those who sweep the mall floors, to those who serve refreshments after worship, to the police, postman, politician.

You get the idea. Some of these persons may have never heard a kind word.

V. One last invitation. I hope to receive the following response from you. Please be kind, patient and understanding (pause) – I’m on Medicare.

No, I do not require a response from you. Perhaps you’re preoccupied, in too much pain, or suspicious of anyone offering you kindness. I have learned to maintain my integrity no matter how others respond to me. I’m in charge of my own life.

However, we celebrate a double-joy when we connect with each others acts of joy. So connect. You will be glad you did.

Wayne H. Keller, a member of The Olympian Board of Contributors, is a 1947 graduate of Olympia High School and a retired Presbyterian pastor. He can be reached at waynekeller6@gmail.com.

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