THE MIRACLE OF KINDNESS

Posted by: on December 24, 2019

 

 

 

The Miracle of Kindness

Kindness has a power all its own. Choosing kindness over unkindness must be a conscious choice fueled by vision and faith. Why vision and faith? We have to be willing to be kind even when the recipient is ungrateful or unaware, or when we have no idea of what the outcome of our kindness might be. We have to be kind when no one else can see what we are doing, and even in situations where others are being very unkind to us. Kindness as a way of life means that we are always gently aware of those around us and that we always seek to be as attentive and helpful as possible. I read once that people are best judged by their acts of kindness toward those who can never repay them in any way. Kindness as a dedicated way of life is hard work. I have always told my students in teacher education that it is much easier to see the impact of unkindness and cruelty than to see the impact of kindness and generosity of spirit. Yet, we have to believe that the power of kindness is the greatest power in human relationships.

Last night, on the first night of Hanukkah, I began my annual reading of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s children’s book titled The Power of Light: Eight Stories for Hanukkah.  I think this book is important holiday reading for people of any age and all faiths. It helps us to focus on spiritual contemplation of the great importance of how we treat others.

The story for the first night of Hanukkah is my favorite. A father, who is a rabbi, is encouraging his children to share their Hanukkah coins with the poor. He tells them the story that his grandmother had told him long ago. It is the story of a brilliant little boy named Zaddock who was always kind to humans and to animals. He even left a small bite of cheese every night for a little mouse who lived in a crack in the wall of his home. One day toward nightfall, on the third day of Hanukkah, he overheard a neighbor tell another of a sick tailor who was so poor he could no longer even heat his house.

Compassionate little Zaddock thought of a place deep in the forest where many fallen branches could be found and gathered without cost. He left his home as darkness was falling, without telling his mother, to go into the forest to find wood for the sick man. But in the dark he lost his way and might have died of the cold except for the three mysterious Hanukkah lights that suddenly appeared. They lingered near him and then started to move. Zaddock followed the lights, which led him back to his village and to the door of the sick man. When the lights reached the man’s door, they turned into three gold coins. With these gold coins, the man was able to feed his family and heat the oven—and even to purchase oil for his Hanukkah lights. Then he got well, and was able to earn a living once again.

This of course is the folk tale of a miracle, but miracles of kindness great and small can happen every day. If we open our eyes, we can become very aware of them. Since I am a teacher educator, of course my mind turns to the times when I see adults being compassionate and encouraging with children who might otherwise be viewed as beyond help. For example, a few years ago I was in a rural elementary school observing a student teacher and noticed a little boy who would leave his seat at times to lie on the floor under a desk in the back of the room. The kind teacher told me that the boy had a very hard life that had caused him emotional harm.  He had failed first grade in her class the year before, but she had asked to have him again because she understood him and he trusted her. Because of the bond of kindness she had created, he would leave the floor when ready and return to his desk – and work very hard! He was doing quite well in school this year. This boy had experienced a miracle. On the last day of student teaching supervision, my student teacher invited me into that same classroom to view Christmas decorations the students had made. As I looked at them, I felt a hand slip into mine. It was the hand of that very little boy.  The kindness of his teacher was enabling him to trust other adults as well. That little hand will always remain one of the best memories of my career.

Since I am very fond of animals, I also think of recently being in a small rural auto shop near my university. Someone had broken my passenger side mirror a few days earlier in a parking lot. The owner of the shop had ordered the part for me and agreed to meet me early in the morning so I could get to my first class. Feeling stressed about everything that had to be done before the semester ended, I entered the shop to meet the very kind owner with his equally kind and beautiful gray cat. The cat would not leave his side. When I asked what had happened to the missing tip of the cat’s ear, the owner explained that there were many feral cats near his shop. When possible, he would humanely trap them and bring them to a local veterinarian for rabies shots. After treating the feral cats in the cage, the vet would clip a little tip of one ear as a sign that they had been treated. Then the man would return the cats to the wooded area near his shop. If they came around he would feed them. This cat had befriended him with great love and came to the shop every day to see him. This cat had too received a miracle. And anyone who came to the shop and heard his story of rescue was touched by the kindness of this man.

The good news for us all in this holiday season is that, even in the worst of times, every person has the power to be kind to others. Sometimes we might be gratified with a sign that our kindness worked a small miracle of sorts. Many other times, we cannot see the ultimate result of our kindness. Yet, we can always be sure that our kindness to people and other living things will enrich our own lives and put hope somewhere in the world that might otherwise not exist.  In times of trouble and fear, kindness to others is also kindness to ourselves.  We can better see our own bright lights, silently moving in the dark before us, guiding us to the difference we can make in the world while we are alive.

I extend my wishes for wonderful holidays of light and love, and a beautifully kind 2020.

Written  by Beatrice S. Fennimore a teacher educator focused on advocacy and social justice for all children.

 

 

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