© Lucy Swales


  1. The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
  2. A kind act.
Synonyms: altruism – compassion – good will – thoughtfulness – understanding

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”
~ Og Mandino (American Essayist and Psychologist, 1923-1996)

©2011, Jen Payne

Living kindness brings about positive changes in not only one’s attitude, but it cultivates loving-acceptance. A perfect example is contained in the words of one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau. I share a letter from Thoreau to his beloved friend (and another one of my favorite authors), Ralph Waldo Emerson. Kindness simply does not go out of date or expire. Its life line is infinite, able to span centuries and eons.

The Emerson-Thoreau Correspondence:
The Dial Period
by F. B. Sanborn
The Atlantic Monthly, May 1892

February 12, 1843.

DEAR FRIEND, — As the packet still tarries, I will send you some thoughts, which I have lately relearned, as the latest public and private news.

How mean are our relations to one another! Let us pause till they are nobler. A little silence, a little rest, is good. It would be sufficient employment only to cultivate true ones.

The richest gifts we can bestow are the least marketable. We hate the kindness which we understand. A noble person confers no such gift as his whole confidence: none so exalts the giver and the receiver; it produces the truest gratitude. Perhaps it is only essential to friendship that some vital trust should have been reposed by the one in the other. I feel addressed and probed even to the remote parts of my being when one nobly shows, even in trivial things, an implicit faith in me. When such divine commodities are so near and cheap, how strange that it should have  to be each day’s discovery! A threat or a curse may be forgotten, but this mild trust translates me. I am no more of this earth; it acts dynamically; it changes my very substance. I cannot do what before I did. I cannot be what before I was. Other chains may be broken, but in the darkest night, in the  remotest place, I trail this thread. Then things cannot happen. What if God were to confide in us for a moment! Should we not then be gods? How subtle a thing is this confidence!

Nothing sensible passes between; never any consequences are to be apprehended should it be misplaced. Yet something has transpired. A new behavior springs; the ship carries new ballast in her hold. A sufficiently great and generous trust could never be abused. It should be cause to lay down one’s life, — which would not be to lose it. Can there be any mistake up there? Don’t the gods know where to invest their wealth? Such confidence, too, would be reciprocal. When one confides greatly in you, he will feel the roots of an equal trust fastening themselves in him. When such trust has been received or reposed, we dare not speak, hardly to see each other; our voices sound harsh and untrustworthy. We are as instruments which the Powers have dealt with. Through what straits would we not carry this little burden of a magnanimous trust! Yet no harm could possibly come, but simply faithlessness. Not a feather, not a straw, is entrusted; that packet is empty. It is onlycommitted to us, and, as it were, all things are committed to us.

The kindness I have longest remembered has been of this sort, — the sort unsaid; so far behind the speaker’s lips that almost it already lay in my heart. It did not have far to go to be communicated. The gods cannot misunderstand, man cannot explain. We communicate like the burrows of foxes, in silence and darkness, under ground. We are undermined by faith and love. How much more full is Nature where we think the empty space is than where we place the solids! — full of fluid influences. Should we ever communicate but by these? The spirit abhors a vacuum more than Nature. There is a tide which pierces the pores of the air. These aerial rivers, let us not pollute their currents. What meadows do they course through? How many fine mails there are which traverse their routes! He is privileged who gets his letter franked by them.

I believe these things.


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