Thursday, July 10, 2008

On Kindness

A funny thing happened on my way to work two months ago--I was hit by a car while riding a bicycle. At the time, I was less than thrilled. My accident left me without a job for the summer and with a concussion, serious road rash, a fractured pelvis, a police citation, and $16,000 in medical bills ($2,500 after medical insurance). My exciting ambulance ride notwithstanding, this was not a particularly fun experience, and the painful weeks that followed were hardly more so.

But I've always been told that hindsight is 20/20, and the perspective of two months has helped me see the events of May 6, 2008 in an entirely new light. I am now very grateful for the accident that left me with a considerably lighter wallet and scars on all four limbs because that experience helped me appreciate the virtue of kindness. Before my accident, I had always thought of kindness as an attribute whose primary manifestation was an absence of hostility. Kindness meant not making a snide comment about the overweight man who sat next to me on the bus and left me with less personal space than I had hoped for. If I was feeling more magnanimous than usual, kindness might even have involved a small exertion on my behalf--making the bed so that my wife would not have to, or allowing another driver to pull in front of me. Before my accident, I thought of kindness as a quiet virtue, something that was nice but not necessary, the sort of thing that no one worries about until after the pearly gates are already in sight.

Now, I know better. Kindness is no insignificant virtue, and Paul's commandment to the Ephesians--"Be ye kind to one another" (4:32)--is not something to be attended to after we cross off the ten Moses brought down from Sinai. Kindness is more than restraining spite, more than a general fondness or token act of service. After my accident, people I did not know brought my family meals so that my wife would not have to cook and watch both children at the same time. I was given checks that more than covered my $2,500 in medical expenses. People I might not have considered good friends treated me like family--and treating the people outside your circle of friends like they are family is the essence of kindness.

The word kind is a modern derivative of the latin word gens, or tribe. When we use the phrase "two of a kind" we really mean "two of the same tribe." Understanding that kind means tribe or family puts a new spin on Paul's seemingly simple commandment. When he commanded the Ephesians to "be ye kind," he really asked them to be family--to act with the same love, concern and respect towards their associates that we typically reserve for intimate friends and family.

Without my accident, I never would have learned the true meaning of kindness; now, I can only hope that I remember to honor Paul's commandment--because acting with kindness is the essence of Christ's second "great commandment" to "love thy neighbour as thyself," or any other member of your family.


Latter-day said...

so does that mean the phrase should really be: "tribeness"?

"He is being tribe to me."

"I love to be tribe to others."

Interesting thought. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zach,
Why did you get a police citation when you were hit by a car? Were you on the wrong side of the road? I didn't realize the seriousness of your injuries. Thank heaven you are o.k, and that you are mending. Look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.
Love, Aunt Shirley

The Coopers said...

Zsa-Zsa, I love you. Thank you for being you:)It makes me want to be better.
James is deffinitely glad to be up and going again, how are you in that area? I would miss chasing around those little kids of yours:)
Miss you guys!