Kindness has been bouncing around in my mind, as a concept, for a couple of weeks. One would think it is a simple thing because it is such a common idea. Kindness is mild, inoffensive and helpful. Everyone appreciates kindness when it is bestowed upon them, and as it is so valued as a virtue, why isn’t it more spontaneous and ubiquitous in human interactions? People do seem to follow the mild form of the Golden Rule – “Be nice to others and they will be nice to you.” And, they also usually follow the Silver Rule – “Don’t be mean to others and they won’t be mean to you.”
Kindness is more than either of those versions of the Rule, because it implies actions intended to help the other person and not oneself. Both of those versions of the Rule have a selfish component because they expect a better response from the other person. Kindness is one way and doesn’t expect a return of the favor.
The recipient of a kindness must be present because it doesn’t seem the word applies to relations with people in a distant time and place. Placing seeds in the Earth Ark seed bank to be recovered by people hundreds of years in the future may be giving them a wonderful gift, far beyond a mild and inoffensive act, but the gift isn’t given to them personally; the gift is given in the abstract to humanity and the particular recipient is only an unknown member.
A kindness is directed more to a person with whom one is familiar and probably interacting with in the moment but it is of such a nature that there isn’t any expectation of a reciprocal act.
Kindness is an act of pure one-way giving of a small, perhaps inconsequential thing intended to help another person. A kindness may not even be recognized it is so small, but it smooths the recipient’s path through life. Kindness is the sweeping away of a pebble on another person’s path which may be so tiny it might not have been felt even if encountered. Sometimes kindness is difficult, and it takes a heart as great as the universe to move a single atom to make another’s life journey smoother.
Kindness is the ultimate human act, and as close to being godly as we humans can ever get.