Invincible Kindness

Invincible Kindness

November 30th, 2014        Rev. Fiona Heath

Irish writer John O’Donohue noted that ”There is a kindness that dwells deep down in things; it presides everywhere, often in the places we least expect.

The world can be harsh and negative, but if we remain generous and patient, kindness inevitably reveals itself. Something deep in the human soul seems to depend on the presence of kindness; something instinctive in us expects it,and once we sense it we are able to trust and open ourselves.”

I would say that this dependence on kindness is not restricted to the human spirit, all creatures respond to a compassionate action.

A few weeks ago there was an endurance race down in Ecuador. Teams of four cycle, hike, and kayak through punishing terrain, pushing themselves to the limit. About midway through the race the teams rested prior to beginning a 40 kilometre hike through muddy jungle.

While eating, a member of Peak Performance, a Swedish team, shared one of his meatballs with a scruffy stray dog who had been lurking around the teams.

One meatball.

A simple act of kindness towards a fellow creature.

The teams began their hike into the jungle, at times struggling through knee deep mud.

A few kilometres in, as the teams spread out and each moved at their own pace,

Peak Performance noticed the dog.

The dog had followed them into the jungle.

At that point they could hardly shoo him away.

The four Swedes helped the dog through mud, pulling him out when he got stuck.

When they rested, it was clear the dog was spent and exhausted.

So they shared their food once more.

They named the dog Arthur.

After many hours of hiking in the dark they made the next check point.

Arthur stayed with them during the rest period, sleeping at their side.

The next leg was night kayaking on the river.

For everyone’s safety, the organizers asked the team to leave the dog behind.

Arthur is a big dog and kayaks aren’t built for three.

The Swedes set off in the dark in two kayaks loaded with gear.

Arthur jumped into the frigid water and began swimming frantically beside them.

It was clear he was not about to be left behind.

So they pulled him into a kayak.

For the rest of the night they tried to paddle without hitting the dog.

Sometimes he slipped into the water and swam.

Once he made it to shore and ran along a road beside the river.

But he came back again and again to the kayaks and the team.

As the team landed their kayaks and hiked to the finish line,

Arthur was there too.

All because of a Swedish meatball.

A simple act of kindness to another creature.

“Be kind,” said a Scottish writer, “for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Imagine what this dog’s life must have been like to trek kilometres through a jungle, and jump a river in the middle of the night,

all for the sake of one meatball.

A hard battle, indeed.

Arthur’s spirit opened in trust in response to a kindness.

Fortunately for him, the racers were worthy of that trust.

While the Swedish team did not come close to winning the race,

slowed down in part by caring for Arthur, their bond with the dog has brought them more recognition than the winning team.

Social media posts sharing Arthur’s story went viral.

And as Arthur clearly did not want them to go anywhere without him,

with the help of their sponsor, and people around the world,

the team brought the dog home to Sweden.

Arthur is in quarantine right now, getting visits from his friends,

waiting for his new life of love and security.

The Peak Performance team went to Ecuador to run a race, to compete and push themselves to the limit, and in the end what will be remembered will not be their strength or skill, but their kindness.

Aviator and adventurer Amelia Earhart wrote “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.”

How true this is in this story.

Thousands of people have been moved by Arthur’s story,

some raised money to help him to get to Sweden, and so many more have continued to ask to help,

that the team has now set up Arthur’s Foundation, to help stray animals.

A simple act of kindness to a living creature in need has changed the world.

It may only be for a moment,

before people turn their attention to the next viral video,

but is has changed one dog’s life for the better.

Kindness matters in ways both big and small.

As UUs, we come together to give worth to what is worthy of our attention.

Kindness is a great treasure,

a supreme value.

Kindness is not an emotion or attitude so much as an act of will.

No matter how we may feel,

we can always choose to act kindly,

even when we are provoked.

It may not be easy, we might prefer to be snappy, but it is possible.

It takes intention,

it can take a couple of deep breaths,

but it is possible.

We can be kind and gracious even in the midst of great turmoil.

Acting kindly does not require reciprocity, it is not a trade.

In the light of a kindly gesture, we stammer thanks and know it is enough.

If we take our first and seventh principles seriously, kindness must be the basis of UU action.

If we respect the inherent worth of others,

if we understand ourselves as essentially connected to all beings,

As people of the chalice,

we must begin from kindness.

Kindness respects the judgement of others.

Kindness encourages dignity.

Kindness recognizes our connections.

Kindness is healing.

Just ask Arthur.

&

The very word “kindness” derives from kin, kinship, family.

It embodies the sense that we are all related on this planet.

We are all connected and the web is holy.

Being kind, however much we may desire it, is a challenge.

Jack Kerouc, the American writer wrote this poem in the fifties:

“The world you see is just a movie in your mind.
Rocks don’t see it.

Bless and sit down.
Forgive and forget.

Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you’re already
in heaven now.

That’s the story.
That’s the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they’re
all running around like chickens with heads cut off.

I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain, s’why I’ll
end up in a shack
praying and being
cool and singing
by my woodstove
making pancakes.”

Practice kindness all day to everybody is the message.

I will try to teach it but it will be in vain.

But not, I’m sure, for me.

As UUs, we celebrate the magnificent mystery of life.

And part of that mystery is kindness – the way a kindly gesture can transform an argument into a conversation.

Compassion can break down barriers.

A man arrived late at the airport and rushed through security and ran to his flight gate.  The ticket agent informed him that his seat had already been given away and he would be on a later flight.

There was a meeting he could not afford to miss.

He was very angry and upset.

And he let everyone know it.

As he was yelling for the supervisor,

an elderly woman walked up to him.

She wasn’t in a hurry, she said, so he could have her seat.

He stopped in mid-bellow. The man apologized to everyone for his behaviour and thanked the woman profusely.

If only that could happen at every ticket counter in every airport.

It’s a tough job, being kind.

Practicing kindness isn’t always possible.

It can be beyond our capacity on the days of traffic jams and looming deadlines and too many bills.

Releasing internal pressure through bad behaviour can be an honest expression of how we really are doing.

I’m sure we all have guilty memories of a time when we didn’t choose kindness.

But feeling terrible about past behaviour only makes us feel worse.

As I said earlier, kindness is not an emotion, but an act of will,

a conscious choice to respond in a way that helps the world.

Practicing kindness is a challenge.

Sometimes the kindest things we do are the truthful, toughest ones.

To be honest about the troubles in a relationship.

To say no to someone wanting a yes.

But we can be honest kindly,

we can say no without being hurtful.

Kindness requires practice,

not until we make perfect,

but practice makes it easier to be kind even when we feel angry or unloving.

We can condition ourselves towards kindness.

But it takes time,

and we will never ever always be kind.

And that is okay.

Fred Rogers, of Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood, appreciated us just as we are.

He reminded us we are all neighbours in a big neighbourhood.

There was something quintessentially kind about Mr. Rogers.

For over thirty years, his children’s television show taught us that each of us was special, with unique gifts, and he was glad to be with all of us.

Mr. Rogers reminded us it was okay to be scared, or shy, or uncertain.

He encouraged us to try our best and to be proud of ourselves.

Mr. Rogers said that mutually caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism,

joy in the achievements of the other,

and confidence in oneself.

He also said it is not in the power of any human being to be this way all the time.

Any mutually caring relationship will also include some measure of unkindness and impatience, intolerance, pessimism, envy and self doubt.

It is okay to have our bad days, our less than kind moments.

We can not always stretch ourselves towards empathy for the other.

The best we can do is be ourselves,

accept ourselves and keep trying.

We will all have times when we are unkind.

Let us practice loving kindness to ourselves when that happens.

This week, I invite all of you to consider kindness.

In coffee hour, please share your stories of kindness.

Perhaps one you saw or heard about on-line.

Perhaps an act of kindness that was given to you when you needed it most.

Spread stories of kindness.

Here at coffee hour, with your family, with co-workers or friends later in the week.

What acts of kindness have you witnessed?

And if you encounter problems this week, troubles that make you want to yell about incompetence or stupidity, take a deep breath, and another,

and see if you can be kind.

Be neighbourly.

We are all in this together.

“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
 

May all of us contribute to the kindness of the world.

May it be so.

 


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