WHEN I WAS A YOUNG MAN I ADMIRED CLEVER PEOPLE, AS AN OLD MAN I CAME TO ADMIRE KIND ONES…..Abraham Joshua Heschel
Oh, do we ever admire the 'clever' among us: rich, famous, successful. Are there any criteria to value others that come close to these ? We honor, respect even worship these individuals as if they were somehow better than the rest of us. They seem to embody the values we hold dear. And those of us who do not possess those qualities feel inadequate, inferior and unfilfilled.
Famous people are likely to be driven, intense, determined and relentless. Fame rarely happens to the quiet, unasuming and kind. Yet what of the 'clever' among us? Sadly, they can be self-destructive, obsessively driven, egomaniacal.
Do we need to look beyond our country's financial disaster to find the destructiion sown by 'clever' people ?
But what of the value of kindness? At times it seems rather pale, ineffectual, impotent. Kindness and fame are rarely spoken of in the same sentence. Acts of kindness are usually done without fanfare or bravado. They are often done quietly, one-on-one.
Kindess is the most powerful tool for healing. It breaks down barriers between people, pierces the armour of defensiveness we often erect to protect our own fragility. Receiving an act of kindness may even shock us–we don't expect it. We are confused by it, often look for ulterior motives.
Meanwhile, those who extend kindess are often courageous in their acts of simplicity. They risk being rebuffed or rejected but are unfased by that prospect.
They act out of an inner impulse to do good, the loving thing. They don't wait for a reply or response. They don't need any. They action is its own reward.
KIndness appears in many forms: charity, volunteering, donations, individual acts of manners, holding the door for others, allowing others into a line of traffic, not honking a second someone doesn't move from a red light, asking those who seem confused if they need help and perhaps the most simple but powerful–a gentle smile to a stranger.
Perhaps this is the lesson that emerges from suffering. Only kindess can ease the pain and fear that many are experiencing. If there were ever a time to choose kindness–it is now.
Let us pray that it can help us all in the coming year.