Character Building - Kindness
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
BOYS and girls-or rather girls and boys-don't read this chapter on kindness until you have thought about the word and its meaning for at least four minutes, and read the definition of it in a dictionary. Perhaps you think you know what kindness really means-but you don't unless you have read the definition of the word in the dictionary, and thought about it, and talked about it, and practised it for many, many days. You cannot learn to swim by reading about it, and you cannot learn kindness by reading about it. To learn either in any true sense you must practise. If you have been sour and disagreeable and "sassy," you cannot be kind all day and every day until you have tried and tried and tried. Skilful skating and true kindness only come by thought and practice. One of the sweetest and kindest beings we ever knew was a woman nearly eighty years of age. She had been practising this splendid art for nearly eighty years. Think of it-the art of kindness! It is an art to be learned like that of conversation, or the art of speaking clearly.
After first thinking about kindness and looking in a dictionary for the definition of it, I would then divide it into four parts and consider each part separately.
First: kindness to parents-the children's best friends. Second: kindness to teachers, the next best friends of the children.
Third : kindness to brothers, sisters, companions, and the world in general.
Fourth: kindness to animals.
If you, my unknown and unseen readers, were now with me in my little library and I should ask you why your parents were your best friends, you would all want to speak at once and say: "They give us food, clothes, a bed"; "They work for us"; and then some little girl would give the highest and best reason of all-"They love us."
First: I wish, girls and boys, that space would permit me to tell you how to show your love for your parents-by kind words, kind thoughts, and kind deeds-but you must work out these thoughts for yourselves.
Second: You can show kindness to your teacher by yielding cheerfully to obedience, by doing your best in your studies, by being orderly, unselfish, and courteous, and in many other ways that you can think of a great deal better than I can, because my school days ended nearly forty years ago.
Third: Boys and girls, I am going to ask you to think of six ways by which you can show kindness to companions. Won't you write them out and send them to me?
Fourth: I believe that every boy and girl that I am talking to, loves animals. I am sure every girl does. If any boy who is reading this little chapter is cruel to animals, I don't want to talk to him, even in imagination. He must answer these questions carefully, or I shall not permit him to be in my class: If you saw a little bird on the grass beaten from its nest by a heavy storm, what would you do? If you saw a lot of boys stoning a cat, or if you saw a horse beaten when it was doing all it could-what would you think? What would you say? What would you do?
Of course it is not always easy to answer questions so as to do justice to one's own thought or wish or intention. Yet, if we think carefully upon serious questions, we often find good answers coming, as it were, of their own accord out of the very earnestness of our desire to know and do what is best.
Answer our questions, then, according to your own sense of right and wrong. Boys and girls, won't you think about these things? The following articles in our Library will help you to think about one, two and three: "Little Things," "Song of Life," and "Mabel on Midsummer Day," in Volume I; "Baucis and Philemon," and "Robin Hood," in Volume II; "Two Little Boys," and" Simple Susan," in Volume III; "The Monkey's Revenge," and "The King of the Golden River," in Volume IV; "Rajah Brooke of Sarawak," and "Lydia Maria Child," in Volume IX; "Hints for Happiness," and "A Spirit of Love," in Volume X; and "The Deserted Village" and "The Blue and the Gray," in Volume XI.
After you have thought about number four, read the following stories, poems, and chapters about animals in the Library: "Kindness," and "If Ever I See," in Volume I; "The King of the Trout-stream," "The Homesickness of Kehonka," "The Story of a Homer," and "The Adventures of a Loon," in Volume IV; "The Rodent Animals" (chapter xiv) and "Our Wicked Waste of Life," in Volume V; and "Cruelty to Animals," in Volume XI.