Kinder Than Necessary

In this modern age where it’s easy to have thousands of photographs on a smart phone or an iPad, I have two that are significant to me. One is of the tombstone of my mother. It contains only two words and two dates. Genita Davis 1927-1958. She was thirty-one when she died, I was ten. I have very little memory of her.

The second photograph is also that of a tombstone. This one is of my maternal grandmother. Annie Riddlespurger Close 1892-1995. She was one hundred and three when she died. I have many memories of her. Each of those memories are as positive about a human being as one can have. Granny Annie was without doubt the most kind, gracious and loving human I’ve ever known.

I Recently read a story about a teacher telling his class to always be a little kinder than was necessary. My grandmother lived that lesson every day of the forty-seven years I knew her. After my mother died, I lived two years with my grandmother. She was sixty-six years old then, and had no indoor bathroom and received what was called commodities (pre-food stamp food assistance) in those days. She loved me with what can only be called the highest level of unconditional love.

I can’t say for sure what guided her. She went to church but never talked of religion. She lived in a house that couldn’t have been more than 700 square feet and It was taken away by a tornado when she was in her eighties. Never did she utter a word of anger. She outlived her husband by forty-three years and outlived five of her children. Never did she mention a word about the unfairness of life. She was grateful for and satisfied with what she had. Somehow at some time she must have decided to be content with her life. Somehow at some point she must have learned that complaining didn’t change anything. Somehow at some point she must have learned that kindness is better than bitterness and hatred. She was always kinder than necessary.

And so I sit here at 5:30 a.m., thinking about my grandmother and of her grace and beauty. I dare not look at the newspaper headlines for fear of seeing more stories of war, division, hatred , greed and poverty. Kindness is such a simple word and yet it carries such deep and powerful impact. I believe should we learn the lessons of that teacher who told his class to be kinder than was necessary; should we emulate the life of my grandmother, this world would instantly be a far better place.

A quote from the XIV Dali Lama

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Go well, David