Life is messy. I wrote about a particularly difficult period in my own life and people often ask me, "How did you get through it all? How did you come out of it?" It was people who ultimately drew me out of my sadness. It wasn't anything I wrote in my journal. It wasn't some great thought, and it wasn't something I did. It was people. I wrote this in my journal at one point. "She was so kind to me. I was hurt, so wounded, and suffering, and her kindness soothed me. She didn't even know she was doing it. Her kindness was as natural a part of her as her eyes and her hands were. Her beautiful kindness drew me out of my sadness.” But there were others too. So many people. Friends and family, perfect strangers, people I had known forever, and people I had just met. Each in their own way, gifting me with a beautiful kindness.
One day I was lying on the couch in my study, in a daze, unable to move, held down by a debilitating sadness. Next thing I knew my little boy Harry climbs up on the couch and snuggles in next to me. I held him close, but perhaps he was holding me. I don't know. The latter, I think. He didn't say a word, he didn't need to. Somehow, he knew that. Within 10 or 15 minutes, he had effortlessly lifted me out of that sadness. He knew that too. He kissed the side of my face, rolled off the couch, and disappeared as suddenly as he had arrived. All the kindness that I experienced in that period was both random and yet coordinated. Each person was just doing what they felt called to do. Each act seemed random, but the divine physician was coordinating every kindness to heal my soul and to restore my hope. It was a program of kindness God had designed just for me.
Then came the day when I became conscious that in my desperate efforts to survive, I had neglected my own capacity for kindness. It's one of life's most delightful paradoxes. The more joy we bring to others, the more our own joy expands. The greatness and beauty of the human spirit is undeniable in kindness. Kindness demonstrates the greatness of the human spirit. Kindness is beautiful. Whether it's the thoughtfulness of a random act of kindness or the heroic kindness that involves great personal sacrifice, examine the most devastating and disgusting moments in human history. And wrapped up in those moments, you will find heroic kindness. The greatness of the human spirit often shines brightest when the world is darkest.
The Great Depression drew neighbors closer together than ever before. They cared for each other, often going without so that their neighbor's children would have enough food to eat. It is thoughtful kindness to share your food with other if you have plenty to eat yourself. It is heroic kindness to go hungry, so another can eat. World War Two was another one of the most horrific events in history. 85 million people died; 57 million from the activities directly related to the war, and another 28 million people died from war related disease, famine, and poverty. Still, in the midst of this intense evil, ordinary people were going without and risking their lives with their kindness. Thousands of people risked their lives to hide Jews from the Nazis. In the process, they reminded these people who were being hunted like animals that all humanity had not been lost. Viktor Frankl's experience of the culture within concentration camps provides significant insight. He noticed that there were some Nazi guards who showed kindness to prisoners, while there were some prisoners who would exploit their fellow prisoners for personal gain. Most significantly, he discovered that kindness helped people to live longer. Prisoners who focused on themselves and fell into self-pity, were significantly more likely to commit suicide or die of starvation, even with equal rations.
Beyond the daily acts of kindness, there were also heroic acts of kindness. One morning in Auschwitz, after a prisoner had escaped, the guards decided to murder ten prisoners to discourage the others from trying to escape. One of the men selected cried out, "But my wife and my children." It was a desperate plea in the face of brutal inhumanity. The guards didn't care, but one of the men's fellow prisoners, he did. "I'll take his place," he announced. He stared directly into the face of Nazi brutality and provided an epic moment of kindness. In the face of cold indifference, it was a moment of glowing love. His name? Maximilian Kolbe. We also see the enormity of the human heart whenever there is a natural disaster. Aid and relief pour in from around the world. Wherever there is suffering and pain caused by evil or circumstances like natural disasters, there are always people doing their part, however small, to bring kindness to the situation. They refuse to let what they can't do interfere with what they can do. In a world that can be cold, harsh, violent, and at times brutal, kindness proves that our humanity has a better side. A side that is caring and gentle. A side that can rise above almost anything.
Kindness is one of the utterly beautiful expressions of our humanity. Everyday kindness, random acts of kindness, and heroic moments of kindness banish fear, soothe pain, revive hope, and restore our faith in humanity. There are times in our lives when we desperately need to feel the touch of kindness, and there are times when what we need more than anything else is to extend this beautiful touch of kindness to another. The power of kindness is undeniable. It is one of your superpowers, unleash it in your life and watch the domino effect of goodness that it sets off around you and within you. In the darkness, I discovered that even when we are paralyzed by pain, we are still capable of love, of goodness, of generosity, and the beautiful kindness that reminds us all what it means to be human.