I recently learned an interesting lesson about kindness. The slogan, “All for One and One for All,” has taken an entirely new meaning in a capitalist world. Now it translates to “ALL FOR ME,” with a very rigid period in the end. What is overlooked is “ONE FOR ALL” forges a connection among community members and among friends, bridging age gaps. It has brought something forward in the last 18 months that has rarely been experienced before. If it were only one thing, for example, the pandemic, maybe the foundation we built ourselves would have been endured. Yet, it wasn’t only the pandemic. It was the unrest for those of color. It was the uncertainty that engulfed those who chose to serve and protect. It remains difficult to love who you love or be who God created you to be outside the box of acceptance. And the ever-unresolved debate of “GUNS” doesn’t kill people, “PEOPLE” kill people. The loss of a dream, a job, or security are things that mattered most for some of us to COVID-19. Amid all this political chaos, horrible natural disasters—hurricanes, blinding snowstorms in southern Texas, wildfires in California, Arizona, and even my new home state Colorado—made things worse. Even one of these experiences would have been far too much for anyone to endure.
Recently I was on a zoom call listening to my co-workers state their goals and intentions. As the last person wrapped up their comments, there was a pause. The very next moment, my boss narrated a story that expanded my heart and, maybe, even my understanding of what it takes to spread happiness in a world abandoned by kindness. This story stopped me in my tracks. I hope I recall the story correctly.
Forgive my paraphrasing.
Back in the 60s, a young college professor was disturbed by the world’s social climate. This young professor knew he would never significantly impact the leaders capable of bringing about change. However, he saw hundreds of college students wanting to see change and asking the question: What is my role in impacting change?
This young professor wanted to push the eager students to learn the simplest lesson in gaining momentum in a confusing world and, most likely, to repeat in future the lessons unlearned decades ago. The professor guided all his classes to an early Saturday morning down to the gym. Why did even one student show up on a Saturday? The professor had told each of them that if they showed up and participated, he would delete the lowest score of one of their exams because the lesson they would learn would be greater than any other lesson learned inside the classroom. It was 7 am. Some in pajamas, some still half asleep, and others curious about what was to unfold, this motley crew found themselves struggling with beverages consumed the night before. All the 93 students stood outside the gym’s wooden floors. They were handed a balloon, asked to blow it up, take a sharpie and write their name on it and toss it onto the floor in front of them. The professor walked around the gym kicking the balloons, mixing them up, displacing them from their original placement. The students took pleasure in watching their teacher running and kicking the balloons until he stopped and announced, “I’m going to give you five minutes to find your balloon with your name on it.” The students looked shocked and confused. “Go!” commanded the professor.
The five minutes were spent without even one student finding their balloon. The professor directed them to go back to the edge of the gym floor.
“Now, I’ll give you another five minutes but different instructions,” the professor said. “Pick up the balloon closest to you and hand it to the individual it belongs to,” he continued. Within four minutes, everyone was standing on the edge of the gym floor, holding their balloon. Finally, the professor said to the students, “These balloons are like happiness. We will never find it if everyone is looking for their own. But if we care about other people’s happiness, we’ll find ours too.”
This story reminds me of the prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console.
To be understood, as to understand.
To be loved as to love.
FOR IT IS IN GIVING THAT WE RECEIVE.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born again.
Maybe the three musketeers had it right: “One for All, All for one.” To bring peace, we must conquer hatred, and we must love even when it is inconvenient or hard to love. Where there is hurt, we must show up and hold space; where there is uncertainty, we must trust the process; where there is hopelessness, we must push ourselves to HOPE.
I’ve learned this week that our principles only mean something when we stick to them despite impediments. True KINDNESS is being kind to others even when it is hard. For it is this that makes us truly KIND.
So, the question is, “What are we humans waiting for?”
Why wait to be KIND? In the end, we receive when we give.
Everyone needs a little more kindness. So, I ask myself, “What role do I play in making the world kinder today?”