“Acts of Kindness / Their Echoes are Truly Endless”
“Years ago, when I was not yet a teenager, my father nearly died.
… It was early in the morning, but he knew exactly what was happening in his chest and woke my mother to ask her to call an ambulance. Our telephone was in the living room, but before she could leave their bedroom to use it, he asked for something else. My father asked that the ambulance not use its siren.
Weeks later, when the fear of death had receded like some strange tide, my mother asked him about the siren. My father said simply that he worried it would have woken and frightened his three sleeping daughters. It is true that we were all light sleepers and that our farm was usually blanketed by the polite silence that comes from having no close neighbors, but what impossible kindness there was in my father’s request.
I have called it an act of kindness, which I think it was. It was considerate in a way I cannot begin to understand; generous in a way no one would expect much less demand. Years later I still do not comprehend how in what very well might have been the final moments of his life, my father thought to ask for quiet so that his daughters might continue sleeping.
Kindness is not always as heavy as action: it can be as light as speech or as invisible as inaction. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to exercise self-restraint: not posting a nasty comment on an article, leaving a mean-spirited tweet in the draft folder, keeping quiet to listen to whatever unfamiliar or opposing opinion is being offered.
Consider George Saunder’s convocation speech last year at Syracuse University when the celebrated author said clearly, ‘What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.’” (Casey N. Cep, ‘Pacific Standard,’ Harvard Business Review, ‘The Short List’ 3.21.14)
“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness.” (William Wordsworth)
“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” (Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert Comic Strip)
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.” (Mother Teresa)
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