"Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly and most underrated agent of human change. Kindness that catches us by surprise brings out the best in our natures."
For most people empathy/compassion is a learned response to the needs of others. As a child I had moments of it , but, in retrospect, I realize how woefully insensitive I was to the needs of my parents and sister. Were I able to go back in time, those needs would be the first things I would address. As with most people my own travails and witnessing others’ made me aware.( Some people never can incorporate such feelings. I heard of two women bonded in mockingly speak of their lack of empathy. Ironically these were 2am mothers, always ready for their own.)
Once a part of you the difference it can make in others’ lives and your own is wondrous. A hint of this is seen in a recent tv ad. It deftly shows people make spontaneous gestures of thoughtfulness and others taking note of them.
The driver on our bus route is serious, even scowling woman. From experience I interpret it as a racial response to me. One day for the first time, she initiated a conversation, inquiring about the colorful bag I had. Later, in thinking of this, I leaped to the idea of giving her one our extra bags. Here she is doing the dame route over and over, few passengers,etc.,etc.. A numbing job. So, there I was waiting at our stop with the bag. I saw a light-up-the-world broad grin and she gave me a hug! It was so easy to do. I hoped the it made her day and maybe restored some goodwill. That is an example from last week. You see the chance and carpe momentum.
John Prine’s great song "Hello in there" is about empathy for lonely older people. If walking along the street and you see lonely, ancient eyes don’t look away as if you don’t care, but say hello in there. Drawing on my own life again I have become very tuned into the elderly. I volunteer at JABA’s Adult Care Center where there is very diverse group of seniors, all handicapped physically and/or mentally. I visit with them. From time to time, I bring something connected to someone there. It is so appreciated by them and me. Also I must say there is much humor there, enhanced by a caring, fun staff. I feel my waterworks priming…
No need to belabor the value of unexpected kindness…. Bov Kerrey is the former U.S. and, until recently, a college president. This statement probably resonates deeply within him. As a 20 year old, he was a gungho Navy Seal in Vietnam and he took part in some atrocities that perhaps a selective memory had deleted. However, it is my projection that contemplation of acts of unkindness led to his elevated awareness. He came to it a hard way. It would be interested to know how he applies this in his daily life.