I have wondered for the past few days about the nature of kindness. I grew up in a family (several actually) where the concept of “teach a man to fish” and “God helps those who help themselves” were predominant themes. Self-reliance, independence, and owing no one were central teachings that carried through into adult hood. Friends and family have questioned me numerous times both about giving money to panhandlers or charities that provide food, money, or other single point assistance.
What began me wondering about this was the emotional factors about trying to sustain yourself and others through survival. I will grant you that learning a skill or a knowledge leads to a greater deal of prolonged survival. Then I begin to question the concept of the lesson of kindness and compassion. Through the simple act of helping another human, we teach not only others but ourselves, our children, even our enemies the concept of acting without regard to selfish intent.
Is this as important a skill as the fishing parable? I believe it is. Without this lesson and this strengthening of the sense of community and fellowship, I think that when hard times do occur, intangibles such as hope and faith are in short supply. Kindness, compassion, simplicity…all of these are skills that have to be honed as much as survival, integrity, and ethics.