Living Well

March 27, 2010

Kindness can change everything

Filed under: character,Personal Leadership — dlneidert @ 10:48 am
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Connoisseurs of fine wine tell me there is a significant difference between an expensive aged wine and a lesser, bottom of the shelf grade vino.  The difference is a fine wine is smooth, fragrant, and robust, while its distant cousin is at times bitter and never very full bodied.

Kindness is like a fine aged wine.  It is mellow and helping, not sharp or bitter.  The Greeks thought of kindness like wine, in that as wine was purified, it became flavorful and mature.  And just like wine becomes robust through the aging process, so we become kind by being kind to others.  Philosopher Eric Hoeffer said it this way, “It is futile to judge a kind deed by its motives.  Kindness can become its own motive.  We are made kind by being kind.”

Kindness can be expressed in our tone of voice, facial expressions, and overall actions as we encounter and interact with others.  Being kind is a choice we make, no matter the exchange.  As I said, it can come even in the tone of our voice. 

A while back, I received a telephone call from a person conducting a survey.  I receive many of these calls in the course of my work assignment, so I have a fair understanding of how long they take and the flow of a good interview.  But during this particular survey, I knew it was not going well after just a few minutes.  I could tell the person conducting the survey was older, as she labored through every question.  She often repeated the questions, asking me to restate my answers two or three times.  Internally I was becoming annoyed, with my mind often wandering toward work stacked on my desk.  But I had agreed to the survey, so I answered the question asked of me respectfully as the survey taker painfully proceeded through twenty-five minutes of questions.

It was the end of the interview that startled me.  It was the final encounter with the survey taker, who was on the other end of a twisted pair of copper cable in a telephone conversation, that made me aware our words and tone of voice matter.  In a slowly delivered statement, this older sounding woman said, “Sir, thank you for being so nice to me.  This is my first interview on the telephone.  Your kind response has given me confidence to keep doing this job.”  Needless to say, I was humbled and somewhat ashamed that I had not been undividedly attentive to her every word.

Sir Humphrey Davy summaries the real essence of kindness when he writes, “Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things in which smiles and kindness and small obligations given habitually are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort.”  It is the smile in our voices, over a telephone line to a person we will never see or meet, that can demonstrate our kindness.

Wine was an important ancient commodity.  The presence of wine at festivals and social gatherings was a sign of bounty and blessing.  Kindness, too, is a blessing and a sign of the bountiful goodness that is resident in our character.

Blessings to you today as you give kindness to someone you encounter.  Grace and peace.

David Neidert

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