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Kindness

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It's not a stranger, out on the Scenic Route

For some reason, I have been thinking about kindness lately; and moved to write about it. I don’t know why, but I do know that when the Muse calls, you don’t hang up. No. If you want something good to happen, you gotta stay on the line; “stay in the chair,” as my writer friends say. 

Of course, thinking about kindness led me also to think about all the unkind things I have done. Most of us are unkind from time to time; through ignorance, or arrogance or just plain error. I have been guilty of all three, but I’m learning. 

I don’t know many people who consistently go out of their way to be cruel, though I’ve met a few. The question, though, is how many of us go out of our way to be kind? 

Do I? Sometimes. I think many of us do, sometimes; and that’s good. If we didn’t, kindness would disappear. 

Very few of us are kind all the time. Probably very few of us are willing to take the risk of being kind all the time. It’s a risky business, for it exposes our good heart when we do something kind, and it seems there are many who will take advantage of the goodhearted, if they can. 

But the goodhearted still risk it, and that is good. If they did not, goodheartedness would disappear, also. 

My favorite story about kindness is one related to me by my friend Karen. She is a single mom with a small, sometimes chaotic house out in the country. Her kids ride the bus to school. She drives to town to work. Mornings are sometimes scheduled hell.

Not long ago, Karen had one of those mornings; kids dragging their feet, oatmeal burned to the bottom of the pan, nothing to wear and fifteen places to wear it to. 

With her patience leaving on the next train, and sanity trying to hitch a ride, she gets her kids in the car, gets them to the bus stop, gets them on the bus, and gets started toward work.

You know the mood she is in, and how real it is. Suddenly, the morning is completely worthless, and even the angle of the sun’s rays is wrong. We come dangerously close to doing a “Donald Duck;” waddling around, waving our wings and quacking up. 

There is my friend, talking to herself and God about how rotten things are, asking for a little help along the way; when there, in the road, she comes upon a big batch of feathers all akimbo and flopping around on the center line, obviously some poor bird that has tangled with a bumper.

Karen is a kind person. As a matter of fact, I think Karen is a remarkably kind person, but that morning, she is not feeling kind. In fact, the poor bird in the road just makes matters worse. Now she is stressed and angry. She just asked God to make things better, and here is this poor wounded creature in the road.

She declares to herself that she will not stop. She doesn’t have time. She has had her share of trauma for the day, already, and it’s hardly 8:30. She drives by the struggling mass of feathers. 

One hundred and fifty yards down the road, she slams on the brakes, angrier than ever, and now at herself for being such a sap; and backs up to where the bird is laying in the road. 

She jumps out of the car, slams the door, and stalks back to the bird, determined to make a quick judgement of its condition, help it if she can, or put it out of its misery.

She reaches down to pick up the bird, and, at the approach of her hand... two birds fly away. 

What the birds were doing there, I will leave to your imagination, but I can tell you that Karen’s day is no longer the same. God and her good heart have gotten the best of her. 

When Karen told me that story, I was nearly as joyfully stunned by the flight of the birds as she was when it happened to her. I felt as if some great kindness had been done me. 

Perhaps that is what happens when our hands reach out in kindness: creation, love, joy, freedom, flight, wonder, awe, transformation, redemption; all in a single act. If that is true, think of all that can be overcome by simple acts of kindness: destruction, sorrow, imprisonment, repression, boredom, apathy, stagnation, condemnation, and more, overcome by simple acts of kindness.

Blanche DuBois, the tragic heroine of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” says near the end of the play, “I have always been dependent on the kindness of strangers.”

So are we all. Let kindness not be a stranger in our lives.

Sandy Compton’s books can be purchased online at BlueCreekPress.com, with a new book, a compilation of the best of the Scenic Route, coming out this year. You can reach him at mrcomptonjr(at)hotmail.com. “Kindness” was first published in April, 1998. Karen, who is still goodhearted, is now a happily married grandmother-to-be. 

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Author info

Sandy Compton Sandy Compton Sandy Compton is one of the original contributors to The River Journal, and owner and publisher at Blue Creek Press (www.bluecreekpress.com). His latest book is Side Trips From Cowboy: Addiction, Recovery and the Western American Myth

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The Scenic Route, Kindness, Karen

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