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The Milk of Human Kindness

July 11, 2020

Another Way for week of July 10, 2020

The Milk of Human Kindness

Where does kindness come from? How does it grow in a child or in an adult? What things make it go on a detour? Does kindness come only from inborn nature, or can it be nurtured?

Usually we talk about kindness and say it comes from the heart. But surely kindness starts in the brain, not in the heart, because after all, the heart is an organ pumping blood.

My mind started wandering down this path as I’ve stared at a photo of our young family when our girls were about 7, 5, and 3. Cute little dumplings: most parents feel that way about their offspring. As I looked at the picture, my own heart swelled with happiness to know that each of these daughters is a kind and loving person.

The Davis family circa 1989.

Our world has been struck by both a pandemic of physical illness, as well as an epidemic of discord and ugliness. It has also been blessed by a groundswell of good and gracious deeds, and the giving lifestyles of countless individuals and efforts. I won’t focus on the hostility but rather explore how we can cultivate the expansion of kindness. 

It is truly as simple as always keeping the Golden Rule foremost, spoken by Jesus and others: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” If we all truly kept this as a rule of life, so much arguing, backbiting, crime, and even wars would be avoided.

Back to how to grow the attitude of kindness in a child’s brain and being. Children deserve to be born into homes headed by two parents, and nurtured, loved, and taught by them both. If there is only one parent, or grandparents stepping in to do the job of teaching and loving children, the children should observe and see kindness acted out every day at home and among friends and relatives. They should be taught why it is important to be nice to the brother who is destroying the towers you carefully built. They should come to understand why words can be just as painful as a pow or slap. And they should be taught to forgive and love each other anyway.

I know that unfortunately, even today, some children are slapped and treated harshly. A child who sees parents slapping or hitting is going to think that such behavior is okay for them to do too. There are many ways to discipline and teach children better behavior: a time out, taking away privileges, taking away toys, withholding treats. There are also ways to reward positive behavior and most of all, to set examples as patient and kind people ourselves. Saying please. Thank you. Can I help you with that?

Reality check: no one said teaching children kindness is easy. In these difficult and depressing times, tempers grow short, boredom breeds, and selfishness can be observed everywhere (ahem, supermarket?). As parents we just want to get something done without umpteen interruptions, before we run out of steam. We want to escape to bed and have some peace and quiet time.

Shakespeare was the original author of the phrase “the milk of human kindness” in his play “Macbeth.” Lady Macbeth accuses her husband of having too soft of heart as they deal with ambition, war, and murder. I think Shakespeare had the right idea: what we receive and give in our homes regarding kind attitudes and behaviors is like the milk that nourishes us from day one. We can’t live (happily) or long without it.

One of my daughters was blessed recently with a gracious comment from a child. Mealtimes are frequently difficult when you’re feeding three little boys. But this six-and-a-half-year-old, after a fun and hot afternoon splashing in a small play pool that they’d fixed up after it had a broken slide for a while, and a favorite supper of gluten free pancakes, said, “Thank you Mom and Dad for such a great day!”

Somewhere along the way, that child had received the milk of human kindness and was now offering it back to them. I’m happy to say I’ve seen the germination and growth of sweetness and love in our other grandchildren as well. May it be so in homes all across the land, around the world, and in yours too.

***

What demonstrations or stories of love and kindness have you observed? We all want and need to hear more!

Comment here or write to anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

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