You have to want to be kind

by Wolf Pascoe on May 13, 2013

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop

Weeks ago, the explosions at the Boston Marathon.

Like everyone, I was sick, angry, numb. I felt apprehension, pity, grief. A hundred other things I had no words for. The horror of Newtown returned, an event so hideous that at the time I couldn’t put feelings into words.


I thought, Thank heaven there were only three killed this time.

Only three. 

God, what an appalling comment on the reality we inhabit now: only three.

I read beautiful words about compassion and kindness. Again I had no words.

I also read an article in The GuardianNews is Bad for You. Avoid reading news, it said. You will be healthier, happier, more creative, more able to face problems.

It made sense. But ignore this? How could you turn away from this?

But that wasn’t what The Guardian article was saying. The explosions in Boston was news you couldn’t avoid, couldn’t not read. It would find you. But you must pull back from the horrors before they work a spell and you fall into despair.

What we need are antidotes for despair. So I want to tell a story about kindness:




Some years ago I had a falling out with a nurse in our operating room. We stopped speaking to each other. When we were assigned to the same case, we said what was necessary, but we avoided each other in the halls.

I felt I had been wronged by this nurse. So I shut her out. This went on for years.

Then she got sick. She had a bad cancer, and the cancer was taken out, but it may recur.

Many weeks after her operation she came back to work. I saw her in the hall.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” I said.

I meant it. I had no rancor left. I felt sorry for her. I wanted to be kind.




We began acknowledging each other in the hall. I said hi and said her name. She said my name. We didn’t talk much, but things had shifted.

Last week we worked on a case. I felt kindly toward her. After the case I went over to her.

“It was stupid to go on hating each other,” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “At first when you said hello, I thought you just were feeling sorry for me.”

“I did, but that’s not it,” I said.

“I know,” she said.

“I just think about . . . how fast it goes,” I said.

“You have to want to be kind,” she said.




Kindness doesn’t just happen. It’s so easy not to be kind that it takes a conscious act to overcome the inertia. It’s a decision, an act of will. You choose it, or not. Like you must choose to pull away from horror.

There’s a Hebrew prayer–I may have written about it before–that talks about love. It says, “You shall love  . . .  And you shall keep these words upon your heart.”

That is to say, remind yourself.

But the rabbis of old asked, Why this language in particular? Why upon the heart? Why not keep the words of reminder in the heart?

And the answer was given that no one, not even God, can force love into the heart. So the best that can be done is to keep repeating the commandment to love, and leave the words upon the heart.

Then, when the heart breaks, the words can enter.




Self-help: No outcomes, no news, no hurry




Random Acts of Kindness




Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Viv May 13, 2013 at 8:20 am

Beautiful, thoughtful post. Thank you.


Wolf Pascoe May 13, 2013 at 11:25 am

Thanks, Viv.


David May 13, 2013 at 8:59 am

A lovely post. I like the idea of kindness requiring volition. Indeed, it’s not some cute picture on a Hallmark card.
I also came across this quote today: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia, author (1924-1998)
It must be in the air. Thankfully so.


Wolf Pascoe May 13, 2013 at 11:24 am

Leo Buscaglia! I used to watch him on public television. A sweetheart. I hadn’t known he passed away. He wrote a book called, Love. he said, “I wanted to call the book Love; I was sure someone had used the title. No! Can you imagine? No one ever called a book Love before. What a world! I got the copyright on love!”


Jim Parkevich May 13, 2013 at 10:37 am

Hi Wolf,
A beautiful post. You have done the world a true kindness by reminding each and everyone of us of the wonder of sharing kindness. A blessing to you and your family….Jim ( I am sending this file to a bookmark file and keeping this to read over many times)


Wolf Pascoe May 13, 2013 at 11:25 am

Blessings, Jim.


Barbara May 13, 2013 at 7:36 pm

This is so true, Wolf. We can’t just stick our heads in the ground and try to pretend the bad stuff doesn’t exist. But we can choose to add love and kindness to the world and try to counter the evil. All we can really control in this world is our reaction to what comes our way. Love is never a wrong choice. But pride often makes us think it is.


Wolf Pascoe May 16, 2013 at 9:09 pm

“All we can really control in this world is our reaction to what comes our way. Love is never a wrong choice.”



Privilege of Parenting May 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Made me wonder if perhaps loving kindness is free will and heart break fate? Maybe the two together, like two people relating from soul to soul, or spirit to spirit, bring something that neither alone can quite muster.


Wolf Pascoe May 14, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Is that sort of like pray as if everything depends on God, but act as if everything depends on you?


Kyle May 14, 2013 at 5:16 am

I haven’t forgotten you my friend. I must disagree on one minor point, God chooses not to force love in the heart. Doing so would bring him no glory, only a world of puppets.

Kindness is a choice, I think it speaks to the human’s inherent self-centered nature.


Wolf Pascoe May 14, 2013 at 9:04 pm

God makes us self-centered so we won’t be puppets? Pondering.


Lucas May 16, 2013 at 9:48 am

Beautiful Wolf, simply beautiful:)


Wolf Pascoe May 16, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Blessings, Lucas.


Stacy May 20, 2013 at 6:26 am

Oh yes, prepositions donmatter. 🙂

Beautiful sentiment, one that rings true.



Wolf Pascoe May 20, 2013 at 7:20 pm


For a lesson in how hears work, check out Stacy’s post, Finding Our Soft Hearts


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