A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench…
Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 12:20
kindness, noun. quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.
Henry James to his nephew Billy, quoted in Leon Edel’s Henry James: A Life
Have you ever dropped into Facebook, or any kind of social media, in a fragile state of mind, only to be attacked, unexpectedly, by someone who has taken exception to an article you have shared, or a comment you have posted? You know the person does not really know you, and you know they cannot possibly be aware that you are recently bereaved, or have just had a bitter disappointment, or are sad or anxious. But you have been wounded further nonetheless.
Have you ever observed someone else being attacked, someone whose story you know, all the while realising that the person attacking them doesn’t know what you know about that person’s struggles or misfortunes, and is assuming things about them you know to be untrue?
A wise person once said, “Facebook is all back story back story back story.” It is hair raising indeed to consider, even for a moment, just how little you may know of the lives of the people you are interacting with online.
Behind the profile picture, infinite mystery. And it is that mystery that is informing everything they say and do.
But wait—there’s more. Have you ever visited Facebook, feeling empty and worthless at the end of a terrible day, only to be moved to tears by the kindness of someone showing genuine, detailed interest in something you have said or shared? That, also, has happened to me.
Our kindness, or unkindness, can mean so much to people whose struggles we can never know.
Let us not break the reed already bruised by life.
Let us not snuff out the candle already struggling to give light.
Dr Catherine Hamlin, who enjoys knitting, has been working for women with obstetric fistula in Ethiopia for over fifty years.