Kinder than is Necessary

Morning Prayer
February 10, 2015
Prayer by Ms. Julia-Leigh Pelt, Technology Integration Specialist

I recently read a book intended not for adults, not for high school students, not for Foundations students, but rather for 4th – 6th graders.  And, I absolutely loved it. It is a book called Wonder, written by R.J. Palacio – a book about a remarkable young boy faced with, what would appear to be, overwhelming challenges.  Throughout the book, this young boy teaches his family, his friends, his teachers, and even himself what true strength and courage are.  And, while strength and courage certainly are themes running throughout the book, the theme that resonated greatly with me was that of choosing kindness.  In the book, after a difficult yet rewarding school year, fifth grade graduation rolls around, and it culminates with an address given by the school principal.  I’d like to share with you some of what this principal, Mr. Tushman, says to his students.

In this portion of his speech, Mr. Tushman quotes a beloved author – the principal says,

“But in another book by J.M. Barrie called The Little White Bird…he writes… ‘Shall we make a new rule of life…always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?’”

…Here Mr. Tushman looked up at the audience.  “Kinder than is necessary,” he repeated.  “What a marvelous line, isn’t it?  Kinder than is necessary.  Because it’s not enough to be kind.  One should be kinder than needed.  Why I love that line, that concept, is that it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.  And what does that mean?  How is that measured?  You can’t use a yardstick.  It’s like I was saying just before: it’s not like measuring how much you’ve grown in a year.  It’s not exactly quantifiable, is it?  How do we know we’ve been kind?  What is being kind, anyway?”

The principal goes on to read from another book called Under the Eye of the Clock, by Christopher Nolan.

…He cleared his throat and read from the book: “It was at moments such as these that Joseph recognized the face of God in human form. It glimmered in their kindness to him, it glowed in their keenness, it hinted in their caring, indeed it caressed in their gaze.”  

He paused and took off his reading glasses again.

“It glimmered in their kindness to him,” he repeated, smiling.  “Such a simple thing, kindness.  Such a simple thing.  A nice word of encouragement given when needed.  An act of friendship.  A passing smile.”

Mr. Tushman closes with the following:

“…but what I want for you, my students, to take away from your middle-school experience,” he continued, “is the sure knowledge that, in the future you make for yourselves, anything is possible.  If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place.  And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”

The words of this principal reminded me of what Christ said to his disciples just prior to his death, after washing their feet.  In John 13: 34-35, Christ is quoted as saying – “I give you a new commandment:  love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And, isn’t that what kindness ultimately is?  Love for each other.

Let us pray:

Heavenly father,

As we go about our day today, let us try to remember what it means to be kind – and, what it means to be unkind.  Let us remember that the little things we do (like rolling our eyes or laughing at gossip) can be perceived as very hurtful, while other little kindnesses (like welcoming a new friend or smiling at someone in the hall) are a reflection of you.  Let us trade out unkind actions for kind actions.  Let us be aware that what this fictional principal said to his students is something we should carry with us – that “it’s not enough to be kind”; that we “should be kinder than needed,” “kinder than is necessary.”  And, let us remember that by offering kindness to our neighbor, we in turn follow the commandment to love one another, we demonstrate how you loved us, and we demonstrate that we are your disciples.

Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.

Excerpts from Wonder by R.J. Palacio


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