From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

Mounting Evidence

“If you were arrested for kindness,” someone once asked, “would there be grounds to convict you?”

What an amazing concept, especially in a time when everyone is talking about it, but so few people seem to really be practicing it. Searching the Internet for the mere word brings a staggering 1,320,000 hits. Entire Web sites revolve around the topic. Countless essays expound complicated theories on the subject. Organizations like Compassionate Kids, Kindness Inc., Operation Kindness and the Human Kindness Foundation base their straightforward mission statements on it. Local, national and worldwide movements promote an entire revolution of it.

And with good reason.

These are hard times that try our souls. Hard times in the country, in the city, in the neighborhood, on the block. In all these places we find children wearing bruises and adults wearing hard faces. We find barren larders, drained pocketbooks and leaking hearts. We find wandering souls and aimless bodies. Withered minds and empty arms. The housebound and the homeless. Loneliness. Despair. Fear.


It may not be us personally, but the people are there.

Yet, underlying it all is mankind’s eternal hope. Hope that things will be better, people will be fixed, diseases cured, the poor made rich . . .

So for now we rely on human kindness, the healing balm for all that ails us. For it is by being kind, we have discovered, that suffering is eased and joy is spread.

Practicing the art of kindness makes life better for everyone— the giver and the receiver. Whether spontaneous or premeditated, uncomplicated or complex, kindness-in-action strikes a positive influence.

It’s a simple word, with an equally simple definition.

Kind: of a friendly, generous or warmhearted nature.

Kindness: the quality—or state—of being kind.

So how difficult is it to adopt this virtue? To make it a natural quality in ourselves? To actually become kind, warmhearted beings?

A college professor once said,“Kindness is inherent in all of us. It is our inner urge to imitate the divine, to give of ourselves.”

But even good intention doesn’t necessarily beget kindness. Just ask Gladys.

A generous gift-giver, she thought of the holidays as an opportunity to share her modest wealth with friends and extended family. However, at ninety-three, she found shopping to be a monumental task. Instead, she decided to insert checks of equal value in everyone’s Christmas cards.

In a rush to send them, Gladys kindly penned, “Buy your own present this year,” then she put the cards in the mail.

It wasn’t until after the holidays that she discovered all the checks—buried under papers on her desk!

Like Gladys’s mislaid checks, kindness is sometimes buried in the rush of life. And isn’t that a shame? Especially when it’s a character trait so easy to claim, so easy to incorporate, moment by moment and day by day.

Look around. Miss Manners preaches it: Be polite. Oprah— along with countless others—encourages it: Commit “random acts of kindness.” And the movie Pay It Forward spells it out: Kindness begets kindness.

It really is as simple as that.

Kindness is niceness, a common moral decency, or—plainly— doing what is right, what is polite. It doesn’t falter in the face of religion, politics, gender or race. Kindness anticipates needs, creates value and substance, makes a difference—on a scale large or small, in random doses or in huge gulps. Kindness generates ripples without end. The more we offer, the more we will have to offer. Best of all, it’s contagious—others pass it on.

Mother Teresa urged:

Spread love everywhere you go. First of all, in your own house . . . let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.

Her message is clear. And simple. Those who follow it can shout in one voice,“The evidence is in. We’re guilty as charged! Convict us all on grounds of kindness!”

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