Thinking Anew – Aiming for kindness
It’s always noticeable how the tiniest gesture of friendliness – a smile, a gentle word, a kind remark – can be reciprocated. And it does good too.
This day last week early in the morning, while cycling to Heuston Station, I spotted a man out walking his dog at the junction of Marrowbone Lane and Robert Street.
Both were stopped on the footpath waiting to cross the road. The little black terrier, without a lead, was sitting and as soon as the man said “Go”, the dog crossed the road with him.
Seeing this I was intrigued at how obedient and well trained the dog was. I looked over at the man and complimented him on his training and went on to tell him that my dog would not do that in a million years.
He began to smile and assured me that his dog was a “fits and starts” merchant when it came to obedience. I told him that if my Tess saw a cat she’d be gone if I had not got her on a lead. The man smiled: “Ah, this thing plays with cats”.
Off I cycled over to Heuston Station. And that happened sometime close to 6.30 am. All completely unannounced: two strangers, one on a bicycle, the other walking, a two-minute conversation, and you should have seen the smile on the man’s face as I cycled off.
And I too felt the better for it and was even thinking how Tess would manage at home the day without me. Of course, Tess is my elderly untrained Labrador.
And so it is with our lives. Most times we are kind and friendly with people they will respond accordingly.
It’s the exception where a grunt is the reply to a friendly smile.
Rules and regulations, orthodoxy and observance no doubt have their roles to lay in the affairs of mankind, but the more I see of the world and its workings I’m far more inclined to come down on the side of kindness, gentleness, friendship too.
Anyone who looks at tomorrow’s Gospel surely is bound to see the kindness of Jesus. The Gospel account (Matthew 15: 21 – 28) may have deep scriptural significance but to the casual reader or the person listening to it in church one can’t but be struck with the fabulous and simple humanity of Jesus.
The woman pleaded with Jesus to cure her daughter. He at first explains that he “was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”. She was a Canaanite. But when he sees how she behaves he replies: “Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.” Jesus is a man of mercy and kindness.
Anywhere there are human beings there are those who will become obsessed and over-rigid about rules and regulations. For many they can become the norm.
But rules, regulations, codes, and the observance of all the rules and regulations are most unlikely to be the driving force that will make us kind, gentle and good people. And surely that should be our ambition – our aim to be kind people.
Can there be a possible better epitaph about a person, a better phrase to write on someone’s headstone than “She/he was a kind person”?
Wednesday, August 9th, was the anniversary of the death of Edith Stein, who was gassed on that day in 1942 at Auschwitz. She said: “It has always been far from me to think that God’s mercy allows itself to be circumscribed by the visible Church’s boundaries. God is truth. All who seek truth seek God, whether this is clear to them or not.”
And so too it is with kindness and indeed, all those characteristics, attributes and yes, gestures that bring out the goodness and love of other people. During these last 12 months, I have been privileged and fortunate to see first-hand the love and kindness of people when faced with pain and suffering.
Everything else seems to fade into insignificance.
And it certainly speaks much louder than any words or orders that come from rule books or quoting clauses from doctrinaire manifestos.
I’m still thinking of my friendly encounter with the man and his dog at the Marrowbone Lane-Robert Street junction.