True kindness presupposes the faculty of imagining as one’s own the suffering and joy of others. Without imagination, there can be weakness, theoretical or practical philanthropy, but not true kindness.
– Andre Gide, Pretexts, Reflections on Literature and Morality
There are times when I miss something that’s plainly in front of me; we have a special recording device at chapel, and I feared having lost it, only to discover it two weeks later exactly where it should be. Some studies suggest we almost become blind to object of intense mental focus, like when you have a word in your head that just won’t present itself. This happens all the time for me, which is frustrating, but joy ful in that I sometimes come to experience the world differently. A bit like my nephew, who used to call the canal near his home the ‘boat bath.’
I was reflecting on kindness, trying to put to words that, like love, it cannot exist without some for of action. We know kindness because we witness it, in others and hopefully ourselves. And as I was reflecting on kindness, this quality of being kind, I spotted the word kind; not as in gentle, or generous, or patient, or accepting, but as a group. Kind as in kindred. Humankind.
When we see people acting generous, caring, compassionate, it is as though they are saying to another ‘you are me, and I am you.’ Saying ‘we are of the same kind.’ a ‘kindred spirit’ is one with whom we share a familiarity; as in, we place within our realm of family. The family in our mind, those we connect with on a spiritual level, may or may not be our relations. But we cannot help but showing them love and care. Showing them kindness.
The question, then, is how far does this kindness extend? How large is our family? Jesus quipped ‘if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do same?’ We speak of different classes, different politics, different races, but we are all the same; we are all part of humankind. We speak of different animals, different plants, different rocks, constantly invoking this ‘we are different’, ‘we are different,’ ‘we are different’ … but really we are all part of the universe, sharing the same sun and being made of the same stardust.