BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester, ‘Quaker Thought for the Week’, 18 January 2015 – given by Maggie Taylor-Sanders
THE POWER OF KINDNESS
Good morning. Two events, one local and one in America, have prompted me to think about how one thing affects another. I was looking at a very full River Lugg yesterday, and even though it contained a lot more water than usual it was constrained by the land on either side. Yet at the same time the muddy water was eating away at the banks and would eventually change its course. The event from the US that struck me was the climbing of the great Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.
It’s easy to see how the land and the river affect each other, but more difficult to see how that great granite wall was affected by the two determined, yet tiny, climbers. Clearly their lives will never be the same again after their 19-day climb, but how was the mountain affected by their climbing? Seemingly the rock face is unchanged and will remain so for millennia.
A bit like the way the river and the land constantly interact, everything we experience changes us and everything we do and has an outcome somewhere. Sometimes it’s too small to see and at other times we can see big results, for good or ill. There is a saying that all it takes for bad things to flourish is that good people do nothing about them. We have seen some very bad things recently, which have often been the result of an accumulation of small unkindnesses done by one group of people to another. Am I saying here that that something as small and simple as kindness can change the world? Well, yes, I am. I like people being kind to me, and people like it when I’m kind to them, and very soon I find that what goes around comes around, and kindness flies back and forth everywhere.
We may not always feel it but we do have the power to change things, even huge things. The mountaineers must have knocked off bits of rock from the mountain, and perhaps left a few metal rings used as safety points – tiny things in comparison to the massive, ageless mountain – but nevertheless even it is changed by their having been there. Nothing is too big to make a positive difference to, even if it takes many small kindnesses to change it.
We are known to others by how we behave in the world. When we behave well it’s like a magnet attracting more good things to it and produces something that can have a positive, lasting effect, much bigger than we could ever imagine. And if we believe that everyone and everything is sacred then how else should we behave?