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The amazing power of kindness
Kindness, courtesy and the expression of human warmth are gifts, precious gems we too seldom meet with. Yet they are easily bestowed. - photo by Greg Bell
While trying to wedge my folding canvas chair into an already full line of spectators at my grandsons soccer game recently, a young mother next to me kept adjusting her own chair to make sure I got a comfortable place. Her concern was more than perfunctory. In the next few minutes, I observed her tender kindness and affectionate gestures as she interacted with her husband and children. The special feeling her example left me with has endured for weeks.

Kindness, courtesy and the expression of human warmth are gifts, precious gems we too seldom meet with. Yet they are easily bestowed. We may not reap an immediate return from our smile, kind word, manifest concern or sincere attention to another, but these gestures send messages that may linger far longer and with greater impact than we imagine. They are a welcome counterpoint to the cold, impersonal and even rude conduct we too often encounter.

In his peerless novels, Charles Dickens created frightfully vicious schoolmasters, industry bosses and orphanage overseers, many of whom were based on his own dark experiences in youth. However, he drew many kindly characters like the incomparable debtor Wilbur Micawber from the kind and generous souls who helped him along the way.

Helen Keller was rescued from a life of ignorance and isolation by Annie Sullivan, her angelically devoted teacher. Sullivan spent her entire subsequent life in Kellers service. Andrew Carnegies parents loved him warmly. His doting uncle became his lifelong teacher and guide. Among his many mentors, partners and employees, Carnegie identified many highly considerate and unselfish friends. One exceptional boss elevated Carnegie at an unprecedented pace through the ranks of one of Americas foremost railway companies because of his confidence and trust in the young Scottish emigrant. On his way to fabulous success, John Jacob Astor, one of Americas first rags-to-riches heroes, met with many men and women of notable goodwill and kindness.

Early in the Civil War, a mere boy named Leander Stillwell left the farm to join the Union Army. In his fascinating personal account, "The Story of a Common Soldier of Army Life in the Civil War," he tells how the officers in his Illinois militia unit and two very considerate doctors treated him with exceptional kindness and consideration. His sergeant was a neighbor who watched over him with tender, almost fatherly, concern. In foraging the countryside, Stillwell met with some unfriendly people, but for the most part he was treated generously and respectfully, even by many families in the Confederacy.

One gleans from their lives that Carnegie, Astor, Keller, Stillwell and Nelson Mandela treated people, high and low, with great respect and courtesy. Stories of Abraham Lincolns kindness to all mankind are legion. The Dalai Lama acts consistently with his statement that my religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

Great people grasp the quintessential importance of treating others sincerely, kindly and courteously. This is the very core of Jesus Christs teachings. Christians who overlook them ignore the powerful example of his peerless life.

Almost everyone who has ever told me of meeting a famous or prominent person has described the encounter in terms of how the great person treated him or her. Yet, to that celebrity, the meeting may have been an inconsequential moment in a busy day.

The world at large rarely talks of these simple things. They are certainly not displayed in the violent, smart-mouthed movies and shows paraded before us as depictions of human life. Nor are you likely to find kindness, courtesy or personal warmth in an MBA curriculum. But in the real world, whether in business, at home, on the soccer pitch or any place or time when one human meets another, that encounter will often be judged as much by how they treat each other as by what they did.

Religious figure Ezra Taft Benson often said, People dont care how much you know, until they know how much you care. This little couplet precisely identifies a pivotal law in human relations. Young and old alike will profit greatly from observing this simple but enduring truth.