It’s easy to preach about the need for kindness in society. From the Dalai Lama to Marianne Williamson, to Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, current spiritual thinkers and leaders have urged us to act more compassionately and benevolently. But I think we already have a great deal of kindness in society, but it is not as newsworthy as the alarmist headlines we see everyday that insists otherwise.
It is important to give the prevalent kindness in society more attention, because it can move us into acknowledging not only the kindness we see every day, but also its source and its effect on our health.
Serious academic study has proven time and again that humanity is indeed basically kind. It’s also been documented that nurturing and developing kindness serves to protect us not only against stress, but also against stress-related illnesses. It saves lives, turns other lives around and makes for a healthier, gentler world.
Why are we hardwired for kindness? What drives that act of selfless love – even in the simplest form – for another? Is it basically a human instinct to promote survival of the species, as some would suggest? Does kindness just produce biological changes that are good for us? Or, does it point to our innate spiritual nature that transcends material definitions, scientific analysis and specific religions – showing that at its very heart is a simple yet profound expression of divine Love?
A deeper understanding could change the very way we view love, as well as health. Instead of seeing love or health as a biological event or emotion, dependent on external variables, we could see them as intrinsic to our nature – as an outcome of how we express the Divine.
The moral of the Biblical story of the “Good Samaritan” has become part of our global human story. Jesus’ teaching shines a light, not so much on the uncaring attitudes of passersby, or on the thieves who robbed the traveller, but on the qualities of the Samaritan and the health effect of his kindness. And we are drawn to those qualities and resonate with them in such a way that we refer to people who help those in distress as “Good Samaritans.”
Recently I read a book that really had me thinking about this.” A Street Cat named Bob” is written by a former drug addict and busker, James Bowen. Bowen was in supportive housing and struggling to get off his drug addiction when he came across a ginger tom in dire need of help. Bowen took pity on the cat and brought him into his home, nursed him, and even spent his last pennies on a visit to the free vet clinic to get “Bob” the help he needed. The two bonded and a transformation took place. Bowen admits that having Bob to care for made him less self-centred and much more focused on the needs of Bob. In return, Bob rewarded him with an unexpected gift that he could never have imagined. Today, both are healthy and happy. The book that Bowen wrote about this transformation of both cat and man is so heart touching that it has been a New York Times best seller and is now a movie.
Helping one another, being kind to each other – it’s a natural, healthy spiritual response to another’s need. Instead of reserving our kindness to random acts, or when we feel someone deserves it, each day can become the day to nurture our own Good Samaritan within and discover that we too are cared for. Nothing can be more health giving than that.