“When Henry James, of all people, was saying good-bye once to his young nephew Billy, his brother William’s son, he said something that the boy never forgot. And of all the labyrinthine and impenetrably subtle things that that most labyrinthine and impenetrable old romancer could have said, what he did say was this: “There are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.” Be kind because although kindness is not by a long shot the same thing as holiness, kindness is one of the doors that holiness enters the world through, enters us through—not just gently kind but sometimes fiercely kind.” — Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons by Frederick Buechner
This quote was worth adding to my list just for the wordsmithing—when was the last time you read the words labyrinthine and impenetrably subtle in a sentence together!
But the truths about kindness are a must-remember.
Kindness is often thought of in terms of a boy scout helping a little old lady across the street, but it is so much more. Kindness has to do with finesses, the just-right touch…or the wisdom to not touch at all.
Kindness is biting your tongue when you could say something stingingly true that would increase the negative emotions and pain.
But kindness is also—gently and fiercely—telling someone a hard truth that gives healing and health a chance.
Kindness is not helping someone who asks for it because it would just continue to enable their lack of maturity.
But kindness is also helping someone who needs it but without taking their dignity away from them.
Bottom line, kindness is more art than science.
Vaccines are in the news a lot today.
I remember getting a vaccine as a boy. It was given at school and they were—don’t miss this—using neeedles (yes, you have to say it with three e’s).
We children were lined up like sheep being led to the slaughter and I was nervous, frightened, and on high alert…all of us were. Soon it was my time. I stepped on the other side of the curtain and was greeted by two nurses who might as well have been executioners as far as I was concern. But at least they were smiling executioners who spoke softly and soothingly.
After seating me on a bench, one began to swab my arm with rubbing alcohol (no needle visible) and the other asked me my name and a few other questions and then she said the most amazing and liberating thing, she said, “You can go now.”
They were going to let me live?
I didn’t have to get the shot after all?
Turns out I did get the vaccine. Those ladies were sharp, they worked as a team with one distracting each child with conversation while the other gave the shot—a quick prick, a quick swipe of rubbing alcohol and a little round band aid applied and I was out of there before I could even say, “Please let me live!”
Yes, they were sharp, but more importantly, they were kind.
They had a job to do and they could have easily lined us up like cattle and efficiently and ruthlessly given us our shots. But instead they were kind…they used finesse—just the right touch, and turned what could have been a painful lifelong experience into a positive and beneficial experience.
I’ve had needles stuck in me many times since that day, but never without remembering their kindness.
The ONE THING for day:
It took two people being kind to turn my first shot into a positive experience. I suspect it takes two people most times and the good news is that two can always be available. Where you ask? As Buechner say, kindness is not the same thing as holiness, but it does open the door for the holy and when that happens God has a chance to bring his healing touch to a broken world and with your kindness, that makes two.