Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you are already in heaven.
– Jack Kerouac
The Dalai Lama famously said, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” In her poem “In the Storm,” Mary Oliver suggests that kindness is a miracle. The Gospels of the New Testament make it clear that loving-kindness is what brings about the kingdom of heaven. Jack Kerouac seems to have tested this against his own experience and found it to be true. Still, for most of us it is difficult to “practice kindness all day to everybody.”
This is perhaps because acts of kindness are gratuitous by nature. They are spontaneous and spring from the heart. Kindness becomes something else when it is calculated; when the one being kind expects some sort of payback.
The miracle of kindness is that it is experienced as a grace for both the giver and receiver.
Acts of kindness are simple and often brief but they have the power to shift our perspective and open our hearts. Last week my husband and I were in Santa Fe at one of our favorite restaurants, Pasqual’s. We have been visiting this restaurant for nearly thirty years. We have grown older along with the waiters, many of whom have been working at Pasqual’s for decades. After we paid our bill and left the restaurant I decided to go back in to purchase a billed cap which I thought would be useful during my walks around Lady Bird Lake and at the same time remind me of many happy hours spent at Pasqual’s. The fellow working the cash register has been there all these years and is always welcoming and kind. But this time when I handed him my credit card, he just smiled and said, “You will be our walking billboard in Austin.” I laughed and said “Yes,” still not understanding and trying to hand him my credit card. He said, “No, just take it.” At that moment I felt blessed. I was aware for a few miraculous moments of the love that holds us at all times. Kindness wakes us up to this love–or to heaven as Kerouac points out.
Acts of kindness give us permission to say “I love you”–not in words, of course, and not in a sentimental sense but in a way that acknowledges our oneness. To paraphrase Eudora Welty, acts of kindness, part the veil of indifference that blinds us to each other’s presence, wonder and humanity. Acts of kindness say in so many various ways, “I see you and I am with you.”
Kindness springs from our deepest, truest self. Its source is the Divine “I AM” within all of us. And kindness calls forth the Divine “I AM” in its recipient. I am vulnerable when I give kindness and when I allow myself to receive it. This may be why I don’t practice kindness all day to everyone. I often have my defenses up. I’m caught up in the competition and speed of our culture. I’m going too fast to feel anything. But then out of nowhere, a stranger holds the door for me and smiles and I am blessed, brought back to the truth of who I am and why I am here–awakened to heaven.