The true measure of a man

Have you ever met someone who’s truly kind?

I don’t mean a person who acts kind, but one who is kind; not one who necessarily smiles a lot, but is happy deep inside (there is a difference).

If you ever meet a truly kind person, you’ll know it. It may take time, but believe me – you will know it for sure. They have a tendency to leave those around them feeling comfortable, confident, certain and peaceful simply by sharing the grace of his or her presence.

You may find yourself breathing a sigh of relief – figuratively or literally – once your time with a truly kind person has passed.

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

This is one of my favorite quotes the Internet has brought to my attention. I love it because it’s so darn true. How many times in a given day do we see folks treat persons with the power to improve their status at work or in the community differently than they treat those “beneath” them? They may be nicer to this boss or leader than they are to a person who is not a boss or leader.

Sadly, it becomes more obvious in churches, where there exists persons who believe tithes and additional monetary donations are a measure of a man’s kindness.

This all begs the question of how one measures the kindness of a man. How do you measure the kindness of a man?

For me, it goes back to that quote I adore: “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

Not to abuse a cliché, but random (unadvertised) acts of kindness are a good start. Three friends and I once woke up an old man who owned a small tire store in Bath, N.Y., because a tire blew out on my Celica in the middle of the night on the way to a Bruce Springsteen concert in New Jersey. He got his slippers on and tried his best to find what we needed in his tiny inventory. He didn’t have the size the small sports car required, but it was the thought that counted. I’ve had friends and co-workers baby-sit at a moment’s notice, bosses attend court hearings pertaining to my child and people at the grocery store let me go in front of them in line because I had only a few items to purchase compared to their cartful. Folks have put their own reputations on the line to help me get a job. There have been too many to recall without moderate pondering.

These are truly kind people – and they’ve left a lasting impression on my life.

For remembrance of their acts have affixed themselves to my very character. Not a day passes when I do not recall fondly at least one of them – and attempt to follow suit. I mow lawns for free, edit papers, fix bike tires, hold open doors, assist stranded motorists and give my own possessions to someone who needs them more than me. I also listen when I’d rather be doing something else because it’s clear no one else will.

And to whom these offerings are given – and how they can help me – is hardly a concern. In fact, the effect my good deeds have on my soul feels slightly tarnished if they yield something in return. I have no motivation to do these things other than an unspoken commitment to humankind that was triggered by others’ good deeds that helped me.

Have you ever taken the time to listen to a homeless man? This has always been a point of contention with the Christian extremists I’ve met here in the buckle of the Bible Belt. There’s always a reason to ignore a homeless man (though it’s of the same thought process as it pertains to stranded motorists and other “strangers”): He or she might beat you up and take your money or rape you, or – and this is my favorite – he or she’s just going to spend whatever money you give on booze.

If you’ve never taken the time to carry on a conversation with a transient, I suggest doing so at your next opportunity. I did this almost daily in college; it was how Wild Man Steve came into my life. Psychologically, we all need to know there’s a person around us who gives a hoot – and some of these transients go days without believing so. Nothing reaffirms this belief more than someone from “the other side” completely blowing them off. At least humor them with answers to their questions and by saying “oh really“ a couple of times. Trust me, there’s a good chance you’ll learn something about the world you didn’t know before.

And if they ask for $5, what’s it really going to hurt to give it to them? Even if they are alcoholics or drug addicts, trust me – they need $5 more than you.

A kind person is someone who genuinely cares about others, including complete strangers. A kind person is someone who does more than play the part through lip service and tithes – a kind person is the kind of person who lives it.

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