The power of kindness
Four years ago, I was in a tricycle on my way home. While we were passing the longest street that stretched between our barangay and the city, I saw a disheveled old woman walking. I immediately felt a twinge of guilt. I knew right then and there that this old woman was walking home not because she cared for a slimmer body or just wanted to take a leisurely stroll.
I could not help but remember my own mom doing the same thing some time in the past, choosing not to take a ride to save a few coins, a typical sacrifice for a poor mother.
I admit I seemed presumptuous, but with that instinct of being a son, I told the driver to stop. I walked toward the woman and said, “Sakay na la, Nay” (Just take a ride, Nay). I called another driver, handed him the fare and helped the woman get inside the vehicle.
Fast forward four years later: it’s 2018. I, together with fellow members of our youth ministry, went on an outing to culminate our two-day youth catechism seminar.
During a nighttime activity, we had to honor everybody else by saying whatever we wanted to say as long as it was something positive. There was someone who came from another youth group, an old friend, and it has been years since the last time we talked.
When it was her turn to say something to me, I was taken aback by what I heard. With a crack in her voice, she thanked me, telling everyone that she always knew how good of a person I was.
She was complimenting me for what I did to an old woman walking the street one afternoon four years ago. My jaw almost dropped
after she revealed that that woman was her grandmother.
I don’t really know the complete story on how she knew about the incident. Maybe her grandmother told her or someone else did. But I am not here to blow my own horn, nor sing my own praise. I am writing these things because I am struck at how a small act of kindness can actually go that far.
No stretch of my imagination ever predicted that my encounter with that old woman would be remembered by someone else. I was only responding to my feeling of sympathy, but that seemingly trivial act of love made someone else happy.
In this case, it was not just the old woman. Her granddaughter, too, was grateful and for all those years, she saw me as though I were an angel.
That experience left a strong impression in me because it made me realize how often we underestimate the power of kindness. We don’t have an idea of how much effect we have on other people’s lives when we love, when we try enough to care.
I realize that we don’t need to go to the poorest countries to be able to do life-changing charity works. We can make a difference in others’ lives right where we are.
Helping an old woman walk through the aisle during Mass communion, lending a hand to someone in need at the grocery store, or even just taking time to video call a nephew experiencing his first heartbreak — opportunities for random acts of kindness are not unusual and remote. They are always available for everyone, no exceptions.
When I first saw that old woman, the first thought that came to mind was my mother. The thought of her just reinforced my will to show an act of kindness. This was not just a single experience when I felt the urge to do good because I saw in a stranger someone I personally knew.
But there is nothing wrong with this. In the Gospels, Jesus concluded one of his parables by saying, “Whatever you do to the least of these brethren, you do it to Me.”
Here, Jesus was raising the bar when it comes to doing acts of kindness. We can think of our own mothers when we help an old lady. We can see our younger siblings in the children we visit in an orphanage. But above all that, we can also see the Lord in anyone we extend our helping hand to.
In an era where indifference seems to become the default setting of everyone’s lifestyle, carrying out acts of kindness might sound unpopular.
However, I am certain that having the courage to do it anyway can be revolutionary. True, it will not solve all the problems of the world overnight. But isn’t it satisfying to know that this subtle form of revolution called kindness can actually help the world (or someone’s world) be better?
St. Teresa of Calcutta is famous with these words: “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
It is not surprising for her to say that because her congregation’s work with the sick and the destitute started with small, hidden acts of kindness. Her life was proof that a little spark of love could set the world on fire.
I believe we all have the ability to do the same. Not exactly as what Mother Teresa did, but in ways unique to us and the
situations we find ourselves in.
The other night, I was chatting through messenger with a close friend from high school. She’s graduating this year from UP with a degree in psychology. She shared that during her internship in a foundation that takes care of rape victims, she was assigned to a 12-year-old girl who was abused since she was 7.
She recalled how this young lady used to be so insecure, seeing life as useless. My friend went beyond the duties of an intern. She motivated and helped the young lady with her assignments. They even used to count stars by 6 p.m.
My friend did everything to show this young lady that there was somebody who cared.
Recently, my friend saw a photo of this young lady on Facebook. She was wearing a big smile, with gold medals around her neck. She graduated from elementary school with flying colors.
My friend told me: “This is why my life became meaningful. She was the reason.”
Look at what kindness can do: It gives meaning to our lives. And in my experience, you’ll be surprised that somebody sees you as an angel.
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Amante A. Julaton, 21, is a philosophy seminarian of Nazareth Formation House in Calbayog City, Samar.
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