“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

[attributed to Tom Watson and Billie Holliday]

Although I am not sure who originated these words, I’m grateful they’ve been passed along. “Kinder than necessary” has got to be one of those personal interpretations, or “relative” principles. 

Regardless of our definition, we know when we see goodness in action. Our hearts respond when we hear a story that gives us that instant warmth inside. We know, by the way we feel, when we’ve chosen the path of kindness. We know that humble sense of goodness when we’ve quietly watched over a friend during a time of difficulty, and the satisfaction that it brings us.  We can think back to a time when someone has been there for us, making all the difference – regardless of how small that perfect kindness was.

Like you, I’ve learned that faces can be deceiving unless we look beyond.  Eyes can conceal pain. Smiles can veil hurt and heartache.

No one gets out of this mortal journey without their share of trials.  When they come, there is much to learn. When we’ve learned, we want to help the next person. No doubt our hard knocks may grant us the desire to show a little more kindness than is ‘necessary.’

Thank goodness for the benevolence of fellow travelers in my life – those who have been there when I needed a helping hand, or a bit of tending to guide me through a dark and cloudy episode.

There is a short story that beautifully illustrates the kind of tending we all hope to give as well as to receive.  I don’t know who wrote it. If any of you do, please let me know! I would love to give them credit for this lovely lesson.  It’s called “Two Horses”:

Two Horses     

Just up the road from my home is a field, with two horses in it. From a distance, each horse looks like any other horse. But if you get a closer look you will notice something quite interesting…

One of the horses is blind.

His owner has chosen not to have him put down, but has made him a safe and comfortable barn to live in. This alone is pretty amazing. But if you stand nearby and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell.

It is coming from a smaller horse in the field.  Attached to the horse’s halter is a small, copper-colored bell. It lets the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow.

As you stand and watch these two friends you’ll see that the horse with the bell is always checking on the blind horse, and that the blind horse will listen for the bell and then slowly walk to where the other horse is, trusting he will not be led astray.

When the horse with the bell returns to the shelter of the barn each evening, he will stop occasionally to look back, making sure that the blind friend isn’t too far behind to hear the bell.

Like the owners of these two horses, God may provide ways to make us more comfortable and grant us a sense of safety, often through friends who understand “kindness.”  With our imperfections, or because of our problems, the silver lining of the trial may come in the form of one who knows how to tenderly tend us. Both we, and our friend, become better for it.  And over all, our God watches and loves.

The author went on to write, “Sometimes we are the blind horse, being guided by the little ringing bell of those who God places in our lives.  And at other times we are the guide horse, helping others to find their way.”

This is the way it’s supposed to work, isn’t it? The giving and taking? The see-saw of service? We may have a long row to hoe. If another gardener steps in, the job gets done  more easily. And it’s more enjoyable.  That fellow standing in line may be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. That couple moving slowly in the store may have just gotten news of a dire illness. The youngster acting belligerently might be experiencing extreme trauma.  

Give a little smile. Pass along a good word. Follow the impression to give a call or send a note. Be there for a family member or friend. We get to share in the pool of “caring” and drink in the waters of loving kindness. 

In Ephesians 4:32, we read “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted…” and we know that this is what Christ would have us do. I feel pretty sure that every one of you reading this article has, time and again, proven to be the spot of sunshine when someone needed it during their own personal time of storm.  Being the bell ringers, you have gently led – compassionately served – during a time of need.

In a world where the times are tough and the trials are often massive, we can be kinder than necessary.  And continually re-define, and enlarge upon, what that means to us!