“Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.”—Harold S. Kushner
During my sophomore year of college, I found myself tangled up in a variety of difficulties. One particularly difficult day, I stepped out of a lecture to take a breather… which quickly turned into a “crier.” I tried to hide my tears from the public, and was somewhat successful as I watched about fifteen people glance at me, pause, hesitate, and finally walk away. After several minutes, I heard a sweet voice ask if I was alright. She stopped what she was doing, looked me in the eyes, gave me a hug, and as I thanked her for reaching out, she responded that it was an honor to be able to help me that day.
I saw that friend only once and haven’t seen her since, but the fact that somebody noticed me and had the courage to reach out to me still touches me today.
Harold Kushner articulates well that the motive for kindness has nothing to do with the recipient, but rather, with one’s individual integrity. I learned a lot about that from the girl who helped me that day. She showed me that the value of kindness is contained in itself; she gained no special reward or attention for helping me (I didn’t even know her name!), but I knew at that moment the kind of person she was and was inspired going forward not to suppress kindness to those around me.
My difficulties didn’t all disappear after that encounter, but I felt greater valued and more empowered to move forward in the midst of them because someone demonstrated kindness without hope for reward. And from that moment forward, I have been determined to make kindness a part of who I am, too.