Reflecting on Sharon Salzberg’s book The Force of Kindness, I think about some of my own recent acts of kindness:
One was giving some lazagna to a guy I know. It was a spontaneous thing…I had it in the car intending to give it to someone else. He has mentioned that kindness so many times since that I feel the need to give him a container of chili just to change the subject.
Another was doing a craft project with a friend who is shut in right now. It turned out to be such fun that I can’t wait to do it again with her. I don’t know what I will do if she stops being shut in.
A third was taking a woman to lunch to celebrate an accomplishment in her life. The hug at the end of our time together affirmed that we are building a friendship.
Salzberg writes that one of the fruits of kindness is that “it supports our sense of being someone deserving of love, someone who can in turn accomplish something, who can vanquish difficulties, who can make it through the travails of life, who can be a good person.” She says, “It is someone’s kindness that essentially affirms us, that conveys a sense of wholeness they glimpse in us, a wholeness that we ourselves might barely realize.”
I have not always been a person who could do kindnesses for others. I was one who was mostly on the receiving end of kindnesses. I don’t know exactly why that was. Salzberg’s statement makes me think that maybe I just didn’t believe that I had much worth. I always thought of kindness as a statement about the worth of the giver, never about my own worth. But reflecting on my own acts of kindness, I realize that I do these because of the worthiness of another. I think now that the kindnesses done to me helped me to see myself as a good person worthy of kindness. And it awakened me to seeing that others are worth the kindness I might give.
Quakers believe that there is “that of God” in everyone. I believe that if I can’t see God in someone, there is something in me that impairs my seeing. Often, doing a kindness moves me through my blindness.
Sometimes I question whether I have the time or energy to do a kindness. But in most cases, it isn’t an issue. I figure that if I think of a kindness and am unable to do it…I am not the one to do the kindness. The saying: “It’s the thought that counts” comes to mind. I may not carry out all actions of kindness, but in the thinking of them, I have taken a moment to think kindly of a person. Perhaps that has worth in itself.