Understanding and Kindness

There is a significant difference in value between doing and watching—between actively participating and observing.  Involvement sometimes occurs at the expense of awareness. That is because, in the midst of taking part in an activity, one can overlook elements that influence it. The big picture fades into a blurry backdrop when the lens aims exclusively on bringing the details into precise, high-resolution focus.  “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” Observation frequently equates to understanding. At what point in our maturation does that lesson finally find its way into our consciousness? For some, the lesson is lost. For others, it is the key to unlocking the ability to truly see all aspects of the environment in which we live.


The foundation of National Public Radio (NPR), I have come to believe, is kindness. Whether intentionally or not, NPR teaches kindness and compassion. That fact was brought home to me this morning as I listened to a couple of audio clips. The first, from a regular feature called My Unsung Hero, told about a man whose kindness essentially saved a couple who had been left stranded along an Alaskan highway. The second was a segment of Story Corps from last July, which related the story of the kindness shown through a doctor’s letter of condolences to the family of an 11-year-old child who had died of leukemia. Of course Story Corps seems designed to elicit tears from listeners, but those tears often are in response to stories that demonstrate the overwhelming power of kindness.


You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

I wonder whether, if you were to look just beneath the stoical surface of men (and some women) who seem unfazed by facts and stories that would cause me to melt into puddles of tears, there is a powder keg of emotions just a spark away from exploding? Or are they as unmoved by tragedy and joy as they seem? How, I wonder, can such apparent indifference be taught? More importantly, why is it taught? Why does masculinity seem to be measured by the ability to demonstrate immunity to the effects of emotional firestorms? No answers. Just questions.


Daylight is beginning to make its way through the windows, a sign that my early quiet and solitude are coming to their daily pause. They will return again tomorrow. And I will be here to greet them.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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