Saturday, 20 September 2014

Small Acts of Kindness

I was listening to a radio play on BBC Radio 4, called "Small Acts of Kindness", and I thought that would be a good title for a poem. You have only to turn on the news to hear of new horrors, but the late Stephen Jay Gould stated what I believe is a fundamental truth:

The patterns of human history mix decency and depravity in equal measure. We often assume, therefore, that such a fine balance of results must emerge from societies made of decent and depraved people in equal numbers. But we need to expose and celebrate the fallacy of this conclusion so that, in this moment of crisis, we may reaffirm an essential truth too easily forgotten, and regain some crucial comfort too readily forgone. Good and kind people outnumber all others by thousands to one. The tragedy of human history lies in the enormous potential for destruction in rare acts of evil, not in the high frequency of evil people. Complex systems can only be built step by step, whereas destruction requires but an instant. Thus, in what I like to call the Great Asymmetry, every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced by 10,000 acts of kindness, too often unnoted and invisible as the ''ordinary'' efforts of a vast majority.

Here, then, is a poem which balances the acts of kindness against the evil in the world. Each of us, every day, has opportunities to be kind, compassionate, and caring to others, whether friends or strangers. Of course, we also love very strongly our children, and we love our partner (if we are lucky enough to have one, as I am with Katalin).

But the small acts of kindness are also important, and when we do them, they also help to invisibly change us into better people. The world needs more kindness.

Small Acts of Kindness
Shattered dreams, lightning above
But set against that, steadfast love
Each moment, with the end of days
Looking back upon all our ways
Small acts of kindness, gifts of grace
Matter so much more than to debase
So many wars, where fighters swarm
Dark is the path on the wings of storm.
Small acts of kindness, so often untold
Every present, from young to old
Like waves lapping on sand, this is the key
Making difference, many ripples in the sea
Who can tell such goodness, who can recite
The kindness untold that shines in the light?
With no thought of reward, no thought of gain
Gentle goodness falling, like the softest rain
Small acts of kindness, so feeble and frail
Seemingly hopeless, and bound to fail
But hands still reach out, right up to the end
The dying comforted by touch of a friend
Small acts of kindness, compassion and love
And I see peace descending like a dove
So balance the wars with better days
And where is goodness, sing its praise

No comments: