Friday, May 23, 2014

Rare Gem

I've been seeing this meme going around: "Kindness. It doesn't cost a thing. Sprinkle it everywhere!" 

Kindness is a good thing to spread, but it does cost. Sometimes it costs dearly. To say it doesn’t cost “a thing” is to blue-light special something as precious as platinum, and is to misunderstand the true value, the true depth, the true cost of kindness. To see kindness as not costing anything is to potentially use someone badly who is being kind. 

Kindness is not the same thing as pasting on a bland smile on and being "nice" or being polite. Kindness is not quite the same thing as being a good citizen or being useful to the community.

Kindness can cost the painful effort to treat another with compassion when you're having a rotten day. It can cost donations to charity. It can cost the shirt off your back. It can take a toll on your body and emotions when you're caring for an elder with Alzheimer's. Kindness costs the teacher who isn’t allotted money for resources and who delves into her own pocket to make sure kids get the things they need. Kindness costs comfort when you knock on the door of an unfamiliar and/or cranky neighbor to check on them during a power outage. Kindness costs time spent with someone who needs you. Kindness is time spent in prayer or making offerings on behalf of people who may never know.  Sometimes kindness costs great personal sacrifice at the expense of someone’s life. Somewhere along the line, no matter how small a kindness may appear on the surface, it may well have cost the giver everything he had

Kindness is done without strings attached, without a quid pro quo mentality, without desire to get "brownie points," not because it feels good, not because one feels guilty about something, or not because a person wants emotional leverage on someone else at some point in time (it's called "using guilt to get what you want"). Very few people are actually kind enough to give actual kindness, and very few people are truly honest with themselves and their motivations for doing what they would consider acts of kindness. Doing helpful things with strings attached, with a quid pro quo mentality, with a want to be paid back at some point, because you feel guilty about something, with a desire to earn "brownie points", or because it feels good--these have their place, but in many of these situations, this is called being a good citizen and being useful to community. There's nothing wrong with these, so long as one is honest with oneself (and preferably others as well) when one engages in these. It's different from actual kindness. 

It takes an extraordinary person to offer kindness continually when beaten down by the trials, disappointments, pain, and hardship in life, and to do so from a point of clean and honest motives. It takes an extraordinary person to offer kindness when it costs so dearly.

Let’s face it. Kindness costs. Kindness costs money, effort, emotion, time, resources, comfort, and self-honesty. Kindness is expensive. When you think of it cheaply, you discount how precious it truly is. You discount your own resources when you offer kindness, and you underestimate, disrespect, and discount the efforts and resources of someone who offers you kindness. When someone offers you kindness, treat it for the precious, rare gem it is.

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