I believe kindness is a responsibility. This belief was taught to me by my grandfather through the way he lived his life. My grandpa, who I lovingly referred to as Papa, was a simple, Southern man. Yet he will never be forgotten in the small Georgia town where he was born and died. He will never be forgotten because of the kindness he showed to everyone, no matter their race, class or intelligence. Papa never judged and treated everyone equally. Everyone knew my Papa; he owned the only car dealership in his town. From the small amount of time I got to spend with my grandpa, I remember he would name every car he saw and tell me the year the cars were made. Papa would always be whistling a tune from old movies such as Yankee Doodle and other war movies. There would always be a vibrant smile luminating his wrinkled face. It became my mission to make him laugh; I would do anything to hear his contagious chuckle.
After many years of working his beloved car dealership, Papa decided to sell it so he could get a job that would benefit others. The desire to help others was a common trait of Papa. My papa stared a place where people with mental disabilities could get help in finding a job. After about 20 years, my Papa died in his sleep. Until Papa’s funeral, I had no idea how his kindness affected people. At his funeral my job was to greet people. Towards the end of his funeral, my hand had gone numb from shaking so many other hands. Thousands of people showed up at Papa’s funeral, all sharing stories of how his kindness had changed their lives. People with mental disabilities told me that my Papa was the only person who believed in them and that it was because of the kindness that he showed them that they now believe in themselves. During the days after Papa’s funeral, my grandma was bombarded with phone calls, visitors and letters from people grateful for Papa’s kindness. My Papa never won any awards or was publicly recognized for his kindness; but, he had achieved the greatest award you can get. He had the admiration, love and respect of his hometown.
Papa’s funeral taught me so much about his life. People who once thought they were useless realized they are not because of Papa’s kindness. This is why I believe kindness is a responsibly. It does not take much to be kind; just think about how you would like to be treated. Kindness is so effortless yet the effects of it on people are so big, like the lives of the people who knew my Papa. I know that I have been changed by Papa’s simple kindness. I often times wonder how I will be remembered when I die. I can only hope to be as respected and appreciated as my Papa, my role model.
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