“Kindness frees us from the cruelty that at times infects human relationships, from the anxiety that prevents us from thinking of others, from the frantic flurry of activity that forgets that others also have a right to be happy. Often nowadays we find neither the time nor the energy to stop and be kind to others, to say “excuse me”, “pardon me”, “thank you”.
Yet every now and then, miraculously, a kind person appears and is willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference. If we make a daily effort to do exactly this, we can create a healthy social atmosphere in which misunderstandings can be overcome and conflict forestalled. Kindness ought to be cultivated; it is no superficial bourgeois virtue. Precisely because it entails esteem and respect for others, once kindness becomes a culture within society it transforms lifestyles, relationships and the ways ideas are discussed and compared. Kindness facilitates the quest for consensus; it opens new paths where hostility and conflict would burn all bridges.” (Fratelli Tutti #224)
An ocean begins with a single drop of rain. A benevolent culture begins with a single act of kindness. Surely, most of us have moments of kindness. We have learned our manners and how to treat others; and except for occasional slips, we generally exercise kindness towards those we know and love. But what about those we don’t know? Don’t “love?” In some cultures, there is a large gap between those who are “within” my circle of benevolence, and those who are simply passing anonymously, momentarily through my life’s journey. In fact, in my city, if I enter a person’s house, they cannot shower me with enough kindness. But, on the street, or in a car, I am often just someone in the way, or a competitor for a place in the traffic line. I’m not a person to relate to, but instead, a menace to be vanquished. Is it against the law to be kind to a stranger?
Or, is “reckless” kindness the only way transform a society, calm hostility, and bolster benevolent interdependence. Pope Francis’ encyclicals, Fratelli Tutti and Laudato Si’, are basically about finding, acknowledging and contributing to our interdependence: with each other; with the Earth, with our common home; with all peoples, nations and cultures; and with God. That’s a lot to think about, and it can be intimidating, even to consider. Don’t worry about how it will all happen. Rather, why not simply help to get it started: do something kind for someone new today — and every day!