Compassion and Kindness

What to mull the last month of the year? I want to return to what we all need–compassion and kindness for others and ourselves in these challenging days. Here’s Henri Nouwen: “The joy that compassion brings is one of the best-kept secrets of humanity . . . a secret known to only a very few people, a secret to be rediscovered over and over again.”

Phrases Posted on Facebook, December 2020

Let’s face it; we are only able to extend kindness and compassion to others if we have extended it to ourselves. Being kind, then, is a kind of feedback loop of renewed connection, and it is the most human thing we can be.
Doing good things out of obligation is not true kindness. They always have a pay-me-back edge to them. Spontaneous, unpremeditated acts of loving presence to another’s presence are like sparks from a flint. They start little fires that give off genuine warmth.
We don’t need a PhD. We don’t need money. We don’t even need a home and safety to be a powerful influence. All we need is to be kind, that is, sincerely being with one another.
“Write injuries in sand. Kindness in marble” a French proverb.
We are up to our necks in challenges and the suffering they bring. What can a little kindness do now except express solidarity with one another? And yet, and yet I believe when kindness is embraced as a way of life, we give to the present and also to future that will not be our own. It matters.
The word humility, like the human, comes from humus, or earth. We are most human when we do no great things. We are not so important; we are simple dust and spirit–at best, loving midwives, participants in a process much larger than we. If we are quiet and listen and feel how things move, perhaps we will be wise enough to put our hands on what waits to be born, and bless it with kindness and care.” From Sabbath by Wayne Muller.
I trust I am allowed to quote myself. This sharing is from my book, Great Love in Little Ways: Reflections on the Power of Kindness: “The kindness of a tree is not easy to develop, but when we are able to offer it, we will find how simple presence has solace and new strength . . . This is a lot to offer another person, and almost always we will have the niggling doubt that our silence and our presence are not enough, that we simply aren’t giving anything at all. Even half of the above would do. Having received kindness like this from someone else, we will sense that even a little stillness and rootedness is a wonderful gift. Then we might also sense that, like trees that give off their oxygen, our presence gives off something that is needed. We are giving what we are, and that is the greatest gift we ever give.
Here is one of my most favorite quotes. It is by William James and I have taken the liberty of inserting the word kindness into it. I believe he wouldn’t have objected:
“I’m done with great things and big things, great intentions and big success, and I am for those tiny invisible molecular moral forces (kindness) that work from individual to individual creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water. Yet which, if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of our pride.”
Again here is something from my book, Great Love in Little ways: Reflections on the Power of Kindness. “A bridge is a span over something–a railroad track, a flowing river, or a deep valley. It is in the structure of a bridge to carry weight and to tolerate tension. What a good metaphor a bridge is for kindness. When something deep and conflicted opens up before us that we must live, transcend and cross.” To be a conscious bridge is no small thing.
It’s Christmas Eve and a holy night.  I hope it is not irreverent to say that it is a day and a night when kindness can open our hearts to embrace how vulnerable we really are and how much all of us need to be a manger for each other.
I so love that the word kin is in the word kindness. It is when we know we are kin to those we live with and serve and those we don’t know, even those we disapprove of, that we remake the world into one filled with the heat and power of transformative kindness.
This difficult year is soon coming to a close. What an opportunity to take responsibility for the stream of small but relentless self-criticisms and unkind things we say to ourselves sotto voce. Why not let 2021 be a kinder year? The way we secretly treat ourselves shows up in the way we treat others.
To end this difficult year and to begin the new one with what is always right and of the first order, here is a quote from the eminent American writer, Henry James: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind.”