A Catholic Monthly Magazine


Maria Kennedy

by Maria Kennedy

I’m sure someone has said this to you – “that was very kind of you” It’s one of those phrases that trip off the tongue when we want to say thank you. I grew up with kindness. New Zealanders are kind people. Even if it doesn’t always feel that way because none of us are perfect, we are a kind people. It’s a multi-cultural kindness that celebrates our basic inner goodness. 

“To be good to others is to be near to God.” Suzanne Aubert

I learnt kindness first from my family. Kindness makes a point of being gentle – like when you’re sick and you receive special treatment, and it’s given with a kindly “there, there now”. Even among my brothers and sisters when we weren’t so kind to each other my parents persisted in teaching us to be kinder. I learnt about rules, taking turns and sharing. I learnt about what words I could or couldn’t use. And it wasn’t just about swearing or name calling but also about the correct way of speaking and about having manners – “It’s not ‘I done’. It’s ‘I have done’”. “What do you say?” “Thank you.”

In my family there was a soft, gentle kindness that showed itself in many various everyday ways and I hardly know where to start. Our house was filled with the actions of children and the mess we created never got in the way of our parents’ need for tidiness – our books, games, jigsaw puzzles, homework books and hobbies - we were either at the kitchen table or on the floor in the lounge. I didn’t see it as kindness as a child to be allowed to spread my stuff about as I was too busy getting on with what I was doing, yet in recollection I know how much I appreciated being able to simply do that and in turn I allowed my children to make a similar mess, to let them be.

Kindness written on rockI also knew of a tougher kindness that sat on the sidelines of my family. With messes there was the cleaning up afterwards. Plus there were the firm kindnesses of saying no to some of my behaviour. Pretending to be deaf did not get me out of doing my job of setting the table for tea. I escaped doing piano practise for a while but that finally caught up with me too. “How often do you practise?” asked my Dad. “Er, once a week,” I stammered. “Yes,” replied my Dad, “and that’s at the music lesson.” Caught! As I mentioned above, I was well looked after when I was sick – the lemonade, meals in bed on recovery – but that didn’t extend to colds or sniffles. Off to school we went with an extra large handkerchief in our pockets. It’s a tough kindness that keeps parents caring kindly for their children, especially when they are tired, stressed, unwell or otherwise. But they have to keep going as their actions are the grist that keeps the family nourished. My parents were no different. Further, their parental care wasn’t done with shouts of “look what I do for you”. No, their parenting was done with a quiet, kind humility, and more in line with the phrase, “I will go without, so you can have what you need”.

“Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favourable light at all times and under all circumstances.” Saint Vincent de Paul

Practice random kindnessKindness had a way of showing itself outside my family too, given from many individuals in all parts of my community. The nuns taught us and priests served us with very little recompense. My netball team was coached by volunteer parents. It wasn’t just that they gave up their time but the kindly way they encouraged us to play. In the August school holidays there used to be a ‘Whoppa Swap’ competition put on by the local businesses and The Timaru Herald. As an adult I appreciate the effort these businesses went to, to keep the school children occupied during the holiday break. Then there was the AMP Show with school entry competitions, the annual Home of Compassion Fair, the summer time Caroline Bay Carnival, the many local sporting teams - these events were all glued together with kindly volunteer help. At church many large events also came together with volunteer workers, ranging from the Holy Communion breakfast through to the annual rosary procession. I remember all the to-do of the rosary procession. Volunteers spent hours making up a walkway of colourful patterns made from dyed sawdust. The result was a truly magnificent expression of faith in colour and it made participating in the procession an awesome event even for kids.

“The world is full of discouraged people, and we have the power to say a hopeful word or do a kindness which will drive the discouragement from their hearts and move them again”. Saint Alexander Tsaritsa

All these examples show what a great nation of kind people we are, giving generously of our time and efforts to the benefit and well being of many. And it is these very people that provide hope for our future. Kindness has been given, so that it is still being given today and will be given in the future. In New Zealand we are kind more than being selfish, rude, mean, too busy, hostile, distrustful and resentful. The challenge is not so much to be kind but rather to be kinder, to be more of what we already are, and to pray not to let kindness abandon us in the moments when we need it most.

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa

In New Zealand we have a saying: when life gives you a lemon, make lemonade. It really is a spiritual call to have courage, hope and faith in God who loves us and calls us to happiness. In New Zealand we are truly kind people, we really are most of the time. But in moments when we feel abandoned by a needed kindly touch, the Holy Spirit is always there to strengthen us. I hope and pray the Holy Spirit continues to nourish us and help us grow in kindness towards each other beginning in our families and radiating out from there.

Tagged as:

Comments are closed.