By Sr Melissa Dwyer
WE are made for mission, to make a difference. I’ve always been inspired by the words of Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
Yet sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in doing “big things” that impact on others, and we can forget how important the small things are.
Rather than focusing on changing the world, perhaps if we each focused on doing our little bit of good where we are, on simply being kind to those around us, we could create a tidal wave of transformation.
My first memories of learning about kindness came from my grandmother.
She lived in Sydney and when I was in primary school, she would call early every Sunday morning.
Each week she would ask me two questions.
The first was: “Have you been to Mass?”. The second question: “Have you been kind to your mother?”
For her, faith and kindness were inseparable, as she sought to teach me the value of doing small things out of love.
She wasn’t a famous person, she wasn’t successful in the eyes of the world.
Yet despite her ill health, every day she would walk the streets looking for people just to be kind to.
In her death, I believe she entrusted me with her mission, to try to do the small things well.
Acting with kindness is something that anyone can do, no matter how young or how old.
Showing kindness costs nothing and is not governed by economic status, language or geographical location.
No matter how many eloquent words we speak, how great our programs to support the poor are, or how much of a difference we make, the call to show genuine kindness in the way we relate is crucial to our dealing with others.
As a Church, there are countless invitations to consider how we can best meet the needs of the marginalised and how we can advocate for those who are oppressed.
However, in the midst of our aspiring to bring about lasting change in the lives of others, we need to be careful to never forget basic kindness in the way we deal with one another and all those we meet.
Jesus made a lasting impression in the lives of people by his capacity to not only perform miracles, but because he had genuine encounters with ordinary people.
He met people as they were, in their daily lives.
As we strive to live in imitation of Jesus, we are invited to make conscious choices to touch people’s lives in small but meaningful ways.
Pope Francis reminds us: “the holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures”.
In the same way, the kindness we show to others can be very simple and small acts that bring light and joy to the lives of others.
Our call to kindness might be a smile, a kind word, an offer for help.
It might be to just say “thank you” when someone does something nice for us.
Kindness often costs us nothing, but can truly have such a lasting impact.
Sometimes it can seem that we are surrounded by a society full of wars, violence, corruption and confusion.
Being kind can serve as a way of counteracting the negativity that surrounds us.
In fact, it’s far easier to be kind than to be unkind.
The best way to overcome negativity and hurt from others is in fact to be kind back to them.
Just as gossip divides our society, kindness can unite it, by authentically living our faith in simplicity and sincerity.
Imagine if each of the 7.6 billion people in the world performed one act of kindness to someone every day.
This could truly change our planet.
It’s important to remember that being kind doesn’t begin with strangers.
Being kind doesn’t begin with providing humanitarian aid overseas.
Being kind begins with the people we live with, the people we work with, and the invitation to reach out to the people who challenge us most because they are different from us.
Let us courageously look at our lives and consider how we can be even more kind to others, conscious that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Let us be aware that if we want to bring about change, if we want our society to be more empathetic and kind, it begins with me.
May we be the voice of kindness that we wish to see in our families, in our local communities and in our world.
Sr Melissa Dwyer is a religious sister of the Canossian Daughters of Charity in Brisbane.