A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Be Kind

Posted on: February 21, 2013

Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.

Henry James, quoted in The Book of Positive Quotations, 2nd Edition

Canadians have a reputation for being polite, and we like to think that ours is a kind and gentle society. But is it really all that kind and gentle?

We don’t have to go back to the demolition of Africville to find examples of racism. I’ve personally heard people make snide comments about members of various ethnic groups, even if they don’t use the racial slurs once so common.

And over the past couple of years, teen suicides have been in the news. Some of these kids—including a friend of my son—were victims of bullying.

These types of intolerant behaviour don’t fit our image of Canadian society. So what can we do to help bring our reality and the ideal closer together?

Here in Ottawa, we’re nearing the end of Kindness Week, which was created by Rabbi Reuven Bulka and is now in its sixth year. As the Kindness Week website points out, by being kind—giving, volunteering, saying thanks, celebrating kindness, and paying it forward—you can make a difference in someone else’s life and be happier yourself.

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The goal: for people to make kindness an everyday habit. So it becomes natural to hold the store door open for a parent with a stroller or to help someone reach an item on a high shelf at the grocery store. Simple actions such as these tell the person, “I notice you.” And when much of our human contact comes through text messages, e-mail and voice mail, isn’t that what we all need sometimes—to be noticed?

In my parish, the leader of our Catholic Women’s League group has challenged members to come to meetings ready to share an example of a random act of kindness, either one that we’ve witnessed or (better still) performed.

I know that a small act of kindness can make a big impact. I’ve never forgotten the first day of my last year in high school. I had moved to a new town; my best friend was attending school in another country, and my boyfriend lived a two-hour drive away. I didn’t know a soul and I was miserable. Then it was lunch time. And two sisters kindly invited me to sit with them, even though they didn’t know me. That year was still tough, but their friendship helped me get through it.

Of course, acts of kindness can be on a bigger scale. You could volunteer your time with a charity. Sites like Volunteer Ottawa or Charity Village have a searchable database of postings for afterschool tutors, friendly visitors, office helpers, and so on. On the Canadian Blood Services website, you can find out more about donating blood and bone marrow, and about making the ultimate gift of organ and tissue donation. And today at City Hall, double-lung transplant recipient Hélène Campbell will speak about organ donation at noon during the Caring and Sharing Charity Fair.

The season of Lent, when we’re preparing our hearts to celebrate Easter, is a great time to consider—and act on—what Scripture has to say about kindness, such as these words from the letters of the apostle Paul:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

(Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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