Loving kindness is a Buddhist term which defines right action on the Eightfold Path to enlightenment. It’s also the title of a wonderful book by Sharon Salzberg. The best bumper sticker I’ve seen proclaims, “Loving Kindness if My Religion.” Not a bad motto for people of any denomination.
One of my favorite meditations is to recall all the people who have shown kindness and love to me throughout my life—starting with my parents. The list is lengthy and the memory-walk always leaves me feeling peaceful, grateful, and hopeful that I can pass along the love and kindness I’ve received to others.
Mitch Albom wrote about the five people he hopes to meet in heaven. Because I’ve been remiss in offering thanks in this life, I have scores of people I’d like to thank in heaven.
I have to admit that some of the kindness I’ve received hasn’t been appreciated at the moment. I remember being angry with my dad when I was 12 or 13. I stormed to my grandmother’s house to snitch on my ogre father—forgetting that Grandma was Dad’s mother. Instead of sympathy, which never helps, Grandma told me in no uncertain terms that my dad worked hard to support and care for my brothers and me since my mother died. I needed to be helping, not harassing Dad.
Another act of kindness I didn’t enjoy was Cousin Buffy’s criticism of my junior high taste in clothes. To avoid Buffy’s censure—I tempered my “throwing on whatever is handy” style to a more coordinated approach and avoided ridicule from peers.
A couple of teachers at transition points—9th grade and Freshmen year of college—kindly gave my sloppy first assignments low grades which shocked me, but motivated greater effort.
Kindness comes in many forms.