“Love is kind” (I Cor. 13:4)

            Less than five months after my daughter, Perrin, died after her long battle with cancer, my niece, Kate Childrey, died suddenly. The blow to her Mom and Dad and brother was devastating. The larger Thompson family was crushed by the loss of two out of three female “cousins” in less than five months.

            How does one absorb so much pain? Kate’s Mom and Dad turned their pain into good by focusing on one of Kate’s many endearing qualities – kindness. Kate, known for her soft, sensitive heart, was an elementary school teacher. Her students adored her. Her family created kindness4kate.org, a non-profit distributing beautiful benches to schools, churches, and other places of joy and rest, encouraging people to pause, sit together, and be kind.

            Kindness is an undervalued virtue. Perhaps that is because it is perceived as soft. We tend to resonate more with qualities that are strong, assertive, and visible, like courage. Kindness often goes unnoticed, except by the one who receives the grace. Kindness is a virtue of the heart, expressed through actions of the hands and feet. Compassion and humility are its companions.

            The apostle Paul elevated kindness as the very expression of love, listing it right behind patience in the beautiful verses of I Corinthians 13. Since love is the greatest commandment, the fullness of God’s heart toward us, kindness deserves our utmost attention.

            Kindness resists lists, goals, and strategies. It is an outflow of the heart. Still, kindness grows in the soil of presence and unrushed calm. Kindness starves in the turmoil of busyness and noise.

            Kindness is a rippling virtue that rebounds back to us like an echo in the mountains. Ripples always begin at the center. Equally, kindness is most potent when expressed closest to home. It has the weight to transform families and enliven marriages. It softens hardened exteriors. As with most gifts, it changes the giver as much as it blesses the receiver.

            In this season of heightened stress and anxiety, we would do well to respond with acts of kindness, the gift of presence, and a heart of compassion. This can begin today in our prayers, with our hands, and through eyes of understanding.

            This Friday, April 17th, the third anniversary of Kate’s passing, our family will honor the legacy of kindness that Kate shared with the world in her few short years among us. Her family continues to spread her spirit of kindness. Their hope, and mine, is that kindness may be magnified as the tangible expression of love. May it begin with those we love the most and break through the pain that permeates our driven, distracted, and heartbroken circles.

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