What I find I value most in people is kindness. It’s not just kindness toward me. I’m grateful for that, but, as the vast majority of the world doesn’t know me, I can’t really spend too much time expecting them to be kind to me. It’s when I see people behave kindly toward others that my faith in humanity is restored.
Sometimes, it’s giving the guy outside Circle K a couple of dollars, without making some value judgment about how he’ll spend it. Sometimes a millionaire makes a donation to a school or a hospital. Sometimes it’s the words someone says.
For me, this is where I find the true measure of one’s humanity. It’s not a matter of your achievements. It’s not a question of your wealth. It’s not even in your relationships. It’s about whether you can think of another person as being as important as you are.
If you can do what Atticus suggested, and you can climb inside someone’s skin and walk around in it for a while, and then, move to the next step, your humanity begins to glow. You ask yourself the vital question: What would I need if that were me?
You might not have the money to solve their problems. But you might have a dollar. You might not know the words to say, but you might have a smile. If nothing else, you can look at someone and let them know you see them; they exist. There are times when that simple knowledge can make all the difference.
Because I value kindness, I try my best to show it. I have no money to give anyone, as I have none for myself. But, I can write something for someone who needs help getting the words just right. And I do that. I can remind someone why they matter, even when they don’t want to hear it. And I do that. I can smile because I can summon music I’ve heard and stored in my soul, and I can use it to put a smile on my face, even when I don’t feel external joy. And I do that,too.
I’ve come to believe that my productive days are in the past. I made a difference for 3 decades. I’m proud of that. But, now my health is shot, and the difference I can make is not nearly so great. A friend pointed out that my Defensive Driving courses might still make some difference, and I like to believe she’s right. But I will never have the effect in 5 hours in a room with 30 adults that I had in 7 hours a day, five days a week, nine months of the year with children who wanted to learn.
What I have left to give, then, is Kindness. I don’t believe this makes me soft. It makes me useful. I no longer am a Tree with branches in which a friend can play, rich with leaves that offer shade to shield someone from the sun’s harsh rays. I have no apples left to give. I am naught but an old stump. But Shel Silverstein would tell you that even a stump can be Useful.
If you would like somewhere to sit, there’s room. Come and be for a spell.