Too often we feel alone. Many times however someone comes forward to bridge this loneliness. There is this beautiful story of an overworked nurse who escorted a tired young man to her patient’s bedside. Leaning over and speaking loudly to this elderly man, she said, ‘your son is here!’
The sick man could only slightly flicker his eyes. He must have understood because a contented smile appeared on his face. Thorough out the night, the young man sat there, holding the old man’s hand and whispering words of comfort. By the morning, the patient had died.
When the nurse stepped over to the young man’s side to offer sympathy, he interrupted her and asked “Who is this man?” The startled nurse replied, “I thought he was your father!” “No, I have never seen this man before! He is not my father!” “Then why did you stay?”
And the astounding answer: “I realized he needed a son and his son was not here. And so I stayed. He needed me.”
An act of kindness that changed an old man’s last minutes of life. The power of kindness.
There is a very dramatic story in the Gospel of Saint John, chapter 8. It speaks of the woman caught in adultery. A group of very excited holy men brought this woman in front of Jesus! Justice was on their side. The Law of Moses was harsh but clear. Anyone caught in adultery should be stoned to death.
Jesus however, as usual, reacts in a strange way. He stoops down and starts writing something on the ground! Obviously he wanted to deflect the eyes and the attention of these excited self righteous men from this unfortunate woman. A meeting, as Saint Augustine would put it, between ‘miseria’ misery and ‘misericordia’ mercy.
An amazing act of kindness. By simply doing this gesture of stooping down and writing, he was conveying a message to this woman. You are more important to me than anything that you may have done.
Jesus never in his life tried to add burdens to the already burdened. He never did things to people that make it more difficult. It was said of Jesus that he never broke a bruised reed and he never quenched a smoldering flax.
Kindness is one of the most creative and powerful things that any of us can do for another human being. I remember hearing this story of a boy who grew in a small town where everybody knew each other. Since he was born out of wedlock and his father had disappeared before he was born, he felt that people were always chitchating behind his back. Many times his companions used the ‘b’ word to make fun of him!
He himself, not knowing who his father was, he led a rather miserable life. One day he was in church, alone, sitting at the back when suddenly he felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the new pastor looking down at him with his piercing eyes. He must have heard his story because he asked him, ‘whose boy are you, son? Who is your daddy?’
“That was the question that had haunted me all my life and I did not know what to say. Tears came to my eyes, my chin began to quiver. I felt like I was coming to the very end of everything. But before I could say any words, a great smile came over the old priest’s face and he said, ‘Wait a minute! You don’t have to tell me. Why, of course! I already know. You are the son of God. God is your Daddy. Boy, you have a great heritage. I want you to go out into the world and I want you to claim it for yourself!'”
As Pascal once said, kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much. They can change a life. It changed this boy’s life. He was no longer despondent. He had discovered his identity!
The Talmud says that there are ten strong things in the world. Iron is strong but fire melts it. Fire is strong but water quenches it. Water is strong but the clouds evaporate it. Clouds are strong but wind drives them away. Man is strong but fears cast him down. Fear is strong but sleep overcomes it. Sleep is strong yet death is stronger. But loving kindness survives death.
You see, kindness comes from the heart of God.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.