What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy - they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.
We have restricted humans from giving 'free' food to bears and dolphins because we know that such feeding would make them dependent and lead to their extinction. But when it comes to our own species, we have difficulty seeing the connection between short-term kindness and long-term cruelty; we give women money to have more children, making them more dependent with each child and discouraging them from developing the tools to fend for themselves. The real discrimination against women, then, is 'free feeding'.
We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for plowshares, our spears for farm tools. . . now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness, faith, and the expectation of the future given us through the Crucified One. . . . The more we are persecuted and martyred, the more do others in ever increasing numbers become believers.
It's easy to run to others. It's so hard to stand on one's own record. You can fake virtue for an audience. You can't fake it in your own eyes. Your ego is your strictest judge. They run from it. They spend their lives running. It's easier to donate a few thousand to charity and think oneself noble than to base self-respect on personal standards of personal achievement. It's simple to seek substitutes for competence--such easy substitutes: love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence.
Nothing happened. And everything did. Your whole life you can be told something is wrong and so you believe it. Why should you question it? But then slowly seeds are planted inside of you, one by one, by a touch or a look or a day skateboarding in a park, and they start to burst out of old hulls shells and they start to sprout. And pretty soon there are so many of them. They are named Love and Trust and Kindness and Joy and Desire and Wonder and Spirit and Soulmate. They grow into a garden so dense and thick that it starts to invade your brain where the old things you were once told are dying.
The holiday season promotes a heightened sense of community. It draws our chins up and helps us look above and over the limiting fence of our own events, activities and preoccupations. The opportunity for a heroic gesture can tap you quietly on the shoulder in the midst of a holiday bustle. If you are attentive, you will notice the gentle touch and will be able to respond. Remember. . . There are no small acts of kindness. Every compassionate act makes large the world.
For me, the times I always regret are missed opportunities to say farewell to good people, to wish them long life and say to them in all sincerity, "You build and do not destroy; you sow goodwill and reap it; smiles bloom in the wake of your passing, and I will keep your kindness in trust and share it as occasion arises, so that your life will be a quenching draught of calm in a land of drought and stress. " Too often I never get to say that when it should be said. Instead, I leave them with the equivalent of a "Later, dude!" only to discover there would be no later for us.
Pity is a sense of our own misfortunes in those of another man; it is a sort of foresight of the disasters which may befall ourselves. We assist others,, in order that they may assist us on like occasions; so that the services we offer to the unfortunate are in reality so many anticipated kindnesses to ourselves.