This I Believe

Pamela - Gore, Virginia
Entered on September 2, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I Believe

I believe that kindness is the human trait I most cherish. This wasn’t always the case. But string of family tragedies taught me a valuable lesson about what is really important to sustain the human spirit. It isn’t fame, fortune, intelligence or sophistication…attributes I had so admired and strived to emulate.

Webster’s defines kindness as “the act of showing consideration and caring.” Unlike love or friendship there needn’t be any commitment attached to kind deeds. A smile, an encouraging word, being respectful and courteous to all people –these are the things that can make life easier on a difficult day.

Some of the most appreciated things people have done for me have not been extraordinary things. A female co-worker, who I was not especially close to, sent me flowers on my birthday the year I lost my dad. After his passing, neighbors and friends invited my mother and me to their huge family dinners at Christmas and Thanksgiving, times when we didn’t want to be alone with the ghosts of holidays past. When I had surgery at a hospital 150 miles away, friends from work and church altered their plans to get me there and back. Home again and unable to drive for six weeks, these same folks took turns calling me weekly to see what was needed.

I believe that much of the kindness I have received stems from my own parents’ generosity which included their adoption of my brother and myself. When we were very small, they took in an unwed mother and saw her through the adoption of her child. They looked out for neighbors young and old and bailed our less fortunate relatives out of debt. Their employees were treated fairly even though my parents were taken advantage of many times.

I have not always been as ready to share as they were. Mom and Dad were part of the Greatest Generation and had known hard times, their lives and careers interrupted by Dad’s volunteering to serve in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Once when I ignored a man carrying a sign “will work for food” at a roadside exit, my mother insisted I roll down the window so she could give him some money. She answered my protest by saying sternly, “You’ve never gone to bed hungry.”

The Bible says the sins of the fathers are visited upon future generations, I believe the opposite is true– the kindnesses of our fathers and mothers are repaid to future generations. Faced with the opportunity of doing a kindness, I no longer think “what’s in it for me?” instead, I realize that it will be part of a legacy of blessings I’m leaving for another generation.