Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Everybody around here is getting older--day by day and moment by moment. This is remarkable, especially because as older gets, well, older, some of us undergo changes, and sometimes for the better. And some of us know this and some of us do not. I say this because someone who I don’t know said that as we get older we realize more clearly that kindness is synonymous with happiness--both giving and getting.

What we do about this is another matter, but the truth of that statement is undeniable and writing about it is one thing to do. Anne Frank knew that when as a child close to death she wrote in her diary “How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”. We read it again over 60 years later. Margaret Mead said, never doubt that a few caring people can change the world—there has never been any other way. Acts of charitable behavior are cited in ethics of religion and in many cultures: “If you have not often felt the joy of doing a kind act, you have neglected much, and most of all yourself.” (A. Nielson). Even Aesop, presumably in later years, said “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted”. There are volumes of such confirmations and a Society for RAK (random acts of kindness) is well known.

But a researcher in England named Geoffrey Miller found, after extensive study, that most people feel they are about as happy as they need to be. This finding held true across gender, income, marital status and almost every other social parameter—in most every part of the world. This is by self-report of course, which has its drawbacks, but it is concluded by some students of the matter that the basis for such behavior is genetically ordained. It may, however, clearly be questionable that these findings apply equally to the poor and sick people, say of Calcutta, or anywhere else for that matter, where they suffer the things many people somewhere always do. Acts of kindness can be spiritually powerful in any painful circumstance. On May 21st, 2006, it is reported that a girl in Zimbabwe named Rita wrote as follows about an incident she witnessed: Riding on a bus in heavy traffic on her way to visit a home for orphans, what she saw and heard brought tears. A “terrible accident” happened; a motorbike rider lay bleeding in the street, apparently in critical condition out there in the road, and most probably dying. Members of a nearby church called an ambulance and women from the church rushed to his side forming a circle around him; “they sang beautiful hymns and said prayers, some to save his body, some to save his soul. They sang like angels—the music was sad and beautiful. This gesture (of caring) was so touching and I shall never forget the kindness of those women in time of need”.

We may remember, love is kind; “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians:2, 6-8). “And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians: 4; 32). It occurs to me that one can get older at any age—and as time goes by we can all learn to be kinder to each other--before it is too late.