by Karen

The noun ‘kindness’ is defined in the dictionary as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. And if you were to search for synonyms, you’ll find words like ‘goodwill’, ‘warmth’ and ‘care’. But as is the case with most other things, kindness can be best understood by means of example.

‘The Girl with the Cake’ is a classic example of Kindness - you might have come across her on social media. She is an ordinary girl but has a love for baking, and a love for kindness. She identifies homeless persons to whom no one else would give the time of day. And then she bakes a cake. Not a plain-as-possible, cheap-as-possible cake – no, she goes all the way. She bakes and decorates an elaborate cake - one that would cost a lot of money in a fancy baking shop - and then she gives that cake to the homeless person. Can you imagine the impact of such kindness? Kindness says ‘I see you’. Kindness says ‘Someone cares’.

Now we all can’t necessarily go around baking cakes for the homeless, but there are many ways we can be kind in our daily lives. Kindness can be in the form of a compliment given to a co-worker or an offer to babysit the children of a single mother. It can be a phone call to a friend who is going through a difficult time or it can even be as simple as a smile. And like The Girl with the Cake, kindness is in its grandest form if it’s done without the expectation of receiving anything in return.

A friend of mine likes to do what is called ‘Random acts of kindness’. He would, for example, when he gets to a toll gate, decide on the spur of the moment that he is also going to pay for the fee of the car behind him – even though he doesn’t know the driver! What would you do if you were in the car behind him? What would you think and what would you say? And would it inspire you to do the same for someone else? Kindness can be contagious.

Now that we know what kindness is (we looked at the definition and we looked at a number of examples) – why is it a ‘big thing’? I believe one of the reasons can be explained by a well known quote: ‘Be kinder than necessary, because whoever you meet might be fighting some kind of battle’. Isn’t that true? Most of us don’t wear our battle scars on our sleeves. We prefer to face the world with a brave smile, pretending that all is well. But the co-worker you are sitting next to every day might be struggling with a low self esteem. Your simple act of complimenting her on how good she looks in a new outfit may have a much bigger impact than you would know. Or consider the story of Bill and Mark, which went viral on social media. Bill was an outcast in his school and bullied on a daily basis. He had just about had enough, and decided to commit suicide. Mark was a fellow classmate, and on that very same day, without knowing what was going through Bill’s mind, decided to reach out to him in kindness. The two became fast friends and Bill was prevented from taking his own life. So be kinder than necessary because whoever you meet might be fighting some kind of battle.

You might however be less of a touchy-feely kind of person and rather want hard solid proof that kindness is a big thing. Then let me tell you about a very interesting survey I’ve come across. American relationship expert and clinical psychologist, John Gottman, studied married couples for over forty years, trying to determine the key to a lasting marriage. The answer was profound in its simplicity. It came down to Kindness. Couples who are kind to one another, have a much better chance of a lasting and happy marriage.

A third reason why kindness is a ‘big thing’ is that when we are kind, we are reflecting our Maker. The Bible describes God as being righteous and holy and just, which is true, but it also describes Him as being exceptionally kind. One of my favourite verses says that He is ‘Gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness.’ He tells us to love our enemies, so that we may be like Him, who makes the sun rise on both those who are evil and those who are good.

I want to challenge all of us, myself included, to look for opportunities to be kind this week. Maybe you are planning to go to eat out on Saturday. How about giving the waitress an extra generous tip? One that would make her day! Or when you’re in the grocery store, with your trolley full of groceries waiting to pay, why not let the person behind you go first? The one with only two items? And when you’re at home, how about setting aside just thirty minutes of your day to visit an elderly neighbour? In a big city such as ours, people who live on their own can be really lonely. Let her tell you about her children and her health and the ‘good old days’. Your thirty minutes of attention will likely brighten her entire day.

Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. It says ‘I see you’ and it says ‘Someone cares’. Like The Girl with the Cake, it doesn’t expect anything in return and like the guy paying the fee for the car behind him, it can be contagious. It is a big thing because whoever you meet might be fighting some kind of battle and studies have shown that kindness is one of the key ingredients to a lasting marriage. When we are kind we are reflecting our Maker, who is the source of all kindness.

Kindness is a very big thing.