Saturday, 1 July 2017

10 Times Kindness Changed the World

Reaching hands

Reading the news is often an exercise in anguish, with outlets reporting only the worst of the world’s happenings. We see images of death and destruction and anger, and the despair begins to set in. Our hearts break. We begin to lose faith in humanity.
But as the poet Alexander Pope once wrote, hope springs eternal.
Kindness is a natural part of the human heart—far more natural, in fact, than unkindness. Our bodies are healthier when we’re kind, and our minds, more well-balanced. It does us good.
And not only individually. Kindness does us good on a global scale, with each kind act making a difference in the lives of untold numbers of people.
Among these acts of kindness, a few stand out as true world-changers. These events continue to serve as reminders that kindness truly can, and does, make a difference.
So let’s take a look at 10 times kindness changed the world for the better

The Protection of Oskar Schindler
Although a far more complex character than director Steven Spielberg made him out to be, Oskar Schindler’s choice to be kind to 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust still resonates throughout the world today.
An ethnic German and a Catholic, Schindler bought a Jewish-owned enamelware factory called Rekord Ltd., changing the name to Deutsche Emalwarenfabrik Oskar Schindler—also called Emalia— in 1939.
At his factory, Schindler employed Jewish workers from the nearby Krakow ghetto—a Jewish ghetto created by the Nazis, from which they exploited Jews for forced labor. But while these Jews were basically slaves in Schindler’s enamelware factory, he went to great lengths to ensure they were protected.
Schindler repeatedly bribed SS officers to not deport his workers to extermination camps, adding an armaments manufacturing division to his factory so that he could claim his Jewish workers essential to the war effort.
When Krakow was liquidated, and many of its Jewish inhabitants sent to their deaths, Schindler let his workers stay safe within the walls of his factory overnight so that they would not be taken.
Later, Schindler convinced the SS to convert his factory into a branch of Plaszow concentration camp, and brought in Jews from other camps as well, protecting them from the brutality of the Nazis at great personal risk, even going so far as to falsify armament production numbers so as to continue safeguarding his Jewish workers, only shutting down operations the day that the Soviets liberated the local concentration camps.
Schindler’s act of kindness saved the lives of over a thousand people, earning him three arrests by the Nazis during his clandestine activities—none of which stuck. Although he died without fanfare or much recognition, he has since been recognized with many awards, and was subsequently reburied in Israel, where he is honored for his extraordinary deeds during the Holocaust.

The Charity of Saint Teresa
Mother Teresa—declared Saint Teresa of Kolkata by Pope Francis 19 years after her death—is often called the Angel of Mercy, and for good reason. A missionary and Roman Catholic nun who led a life marked by kindness and charity, she is what most of us think of when the word “saint” is mentioned.
Saint Teresa established The Missionaries of Charity in 1950, an order of Catholic nuns dedicated to caring for the sick, the uncared for, and the homeless.
It is difficult to pinpoint a concrete beginning and end to Saint Teresa’s act of kindness, as she dedicated her life to this cause.
Saint Teresa, over the course of her life, opened homes dedicated to caring for the dying, homes for those suffering from leprosy, and havens for orphans and homeless youth.
It wasn’t long before her organization began to attract donation and volunteers, and by the 1960s, the Missionaries of Charity had opened orphanages and care facilities throughout India.
Today, the charitable organization is stronger than ever, with branches all over the globe operating over 600 missions, schools, and shelters.
Saint Teresa once said of herself, “By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
Her acts of mercy and kindness inspired the world to greater acts of goodness, and many today continue to think of her when considering the standard of what is truly kind.

The Circle of Muslims
Acts of kindness come not only from the individual, from groups, as well.
In 2011, Christian protesters in Tahrir Square linked hands to create a human wall around a group of Muslims so that they could safely pray during a time of great unrest.
A few days later, Muslims returned the favor.
During Mass in Cairo’s central plaza, a group of Muslims, clad in traditional garb, joined hands to protect the praying Christians from violence.
Christians have been targeted for violence by Islamic extremist groups in Egypt, and often do not have the protection of the police and military—large gatherings, such as what occurs during a Mass, are especially vulnerable.
After the service ended, the crowd of Muslims and Christians chanted “one hand,” celebrating their unity while holding up Korans and crosses.
This act of kindness—shown by two sides of traditionally warring people groups—shows that we are all capable of working together as one, no matter what. And working together in kindness, as all those who were protected on that day in 2011 can attest, leads to a better world.

The Sportsmanship of Iván Fernández 
Acts of kindness aren’t confined to life-or-death situations.
Spanish runner Iván Fernández received massive attention after a December 2012 race, and for very good reason.
He lost. Intentionally.
Leading Kenyan runner Abel Mutai pulled well ahead of Fernández, but near the end, mistakenly thought he had already crossed the finish line, pulling up about 10 meters short.
Fernández caught up to Mutai, but rather than exploiting Mutai’s mistake, which would have netted him a wholly legal win, he stayed behind the Kenyan runner, using gestures to guide him to the actual finish line, and to victory.
"He was the rightful winner," said Fernández. "He created a gap that I couldn't have closed if he hadn't made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn't going to pass him."
Fernández set an example for all competitors in a culture that often emphasizes winning at any cost. He could have simply passed Mutai that day on the track, but decided to take the path of kindness.
He shows us that when we are kind, we win—even in loss.

The Forgiveness of Pope John Paul II
Those in positions of power often set the standards of behavior for those that look up to them. This has the potential to be destructive, but sometimes, our leaders get it very right.
On May 13th, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot four times by Mehmet Ali Ağca as he crossed St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
Two bullets struck the pope in the stomach, while one struck his right arm, and another, his left index finger. In immense pain, the pope was bundled away by his security team, and despite severe blood loss, the pontiff survived.
When we consider what an act of kindness is, we don’t often think of simple forgiveness. It’s an ephemeral thing—something we can’t see or touch. But forgiveness is, in fact, one of the most profound acts of kindness imaginable.
Even though Ağca—who had recently escaped from a Turkish prison, where he was held on charges of murder—attempted to murder Pope John Paul II, the pope immediately, openly, and, in his own words, “sincerely” forgave the man.
In 1983, John Paul II even went so far as to visit his would-be assassin, engaging the man in a private conversation, befriending him, and staying in touch with his family. In 2000, the pope requested that Ağca be pardoned.
That request was granted, and Ağca was released from his Italian prison, although he was still compelled to serve out the remainder of his Turkish sentence.
After the pope’s visit, Ağca converted to Christianity, and was finally released in 2010, returning to Rome in 2014 to lay two dozen white roses at John Paul II’s tomb.
These simple acts of forgiveness changed the very heart of Ağca, where anger and condemnation might have only hardened him.
Nothing is simultaneously harder and easier than sincere forgiveness. But it is also the most powerful tool we have in the quest for kindness. The changed heart of Mehmet Ali Ağca is a testament to this.

The Guidance of Jesus of Nazareth
The founders of the world’s greatest religions, whether you believe they’re divine, prophets, or just plain human, indisputably gave humanity invaluable guidance in the art of kindness.
Sometimes simple teaching is an act of kindness unto itself. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, and a part of the Trinity in the Christian tradition, was just such a teacher.
Jesus’ life and actions were a continuous teaching experience for His disciples, as well as those who sought his wisdom.
One of his most notable acts of kindness involved the healing of a leper in Luke 5:12-16. Whether or not you believe the miraculous actually occurred, the mere fact that Jesus touched a man “full of leprosy” in his time period was an incredible act of kindness.
Leprosy was once not only a disease that affected the body, but the social life as well. Lepers were outcasts, doomed to a life without the comfort of human touch.
But Jesus touched this man, and, according to scripture, healed him.
And this was not the only example of Jesus reaching out to those on the margins of society—He treated sinners, minorities, and women as equally valuable and worthy of love, and His admonition to “turn the other cheek,” when we are wronged continues to be taught and considered today.
Jesus' focus on a kind way of life absolutely changed the world, founding a religion focused on peace and love that a large percentage of the entire world would go on to adopt.

The Compassion of Muhammad
The Prophet Muhammad, too, changed the world through kindness.
Muhammad began spreading the message of Islam in Arabia in a time period marked by a mentality of might-makes-right, bringing a message of peace, human rights, and justice.
When the pagan Arabs reacted to Muhammad’s words with anger and violence, he showed only love and compassion in return—kindnesses that changed the world.
One prominent example of this kindness lies in his treatment of a neighbor who did her best to throw garbage in Muhammad’s path each day. One day, when he emerged from his home, there was no garbage. He came to find that the woman was ill, and took the time to go visit her and offer assistance, as it was the command of Allah that if anyone is sick, a Muslim should offer aid.
The woman was so humbled by the experience that she became ashamed of her actions in the face of the concern Muhammad showed her.
As an example set by an important figure of a major world religion, the Prophet’s kindness, of which this is only one example of many, would go on to ripple throughout the world.

The Abolitionism of Abraham Lincoln
President Abraham Lincoln presided over a divided country, in what was one of the most difficult times of American history—the Civil War. Although he was forced to go to war, his emancipation of American slaves was an act of kindness and bravery the world will not forget.
Lincoln’s views are made clear in his quote from his biography, “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
He was not a fan.
Although his views were more complex than many now believe, Lincoln believed in the equality of all men to improve their lives—blacks and whites, alike.
And so it was because of this personal dislike of slavery that Lincoln attempted to thread the narrow passage between his idealism and the practicality needed to hold a country together, freeing the majority of the slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
He did so during a time when the freedom of slaves was an unpopular idea, and admitted great fear upon doing so. But the kindness of Abraham Lincoln changed the world for the better, despite the difficult nature of the change he thrust upon America.

The Courage of Desmond Doss
Desmond Doss, Army combat medic, and subject of the 2016 film, “Hacksaw Ridge,” provides us with one of the greatest examples of kindness of the century.
Doss was a paradox—a conscientious objector who purposefully enlisted in the Army—who wanted to go to war without hurting a single soul.
Despite protestations and abuse from military leaders and peers, Doss refused to touch a gun or hurt an enemy—he only wanted to heal and help others as a combat medic.
The Army, after a period of consideration, allowed Doss to go into combat.
It was a good decision.
Doss went on to become a legendary World War II hero when he saved the lives of 75 wounded infantrymen during the Battle of Okinawa, despite being wounded 4 times.
Unarmed, Doss climbed a 400 foot escarpment, along with the rest of his battalion, only to be met with a hail of mortar rounds and gunfire which injured approximately 75 soldiers.
Doss refused to seek cover, and carried all 75 casualties, one by one, to the edge of the escarpment, lowering them down to safety via a rope-supported litter.
He didn’t stop there. Even after wounded and placed on a litter, Doss crawled off the litter to attend to a more seriously injured man.
The selflessness of Desmond Doss serves as an example of the bravest sort of kindness—that which puts us at great risk.
His actions certainly paid off, though—dozens of men went home after the war that might not have, otherwise.

The Sacrifice of the Elderly Fukushima Volunteers
Sometimes, the acts of kindness that change the world are ones that demand the ultimate sacrifice from us.
In 2011, a group of more than 200 elderly Japanese volunteered to help take care of the nuclear crisis at the ruined Fukushima nuclear power plant.
The Skilled Veterans Corps, as they named themselves, was comprised of retired engineers and professionals over the age of 60. They believed that they should be the ones to face the dangers of radiation, not the young, who might have their years cut short by the invisible, deadly fallout.
“I am 72, and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live,” said one volunteer of his service. “Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer."
To step forward as these volunteers did, in order to protect the lives of the young, is one of the most touching acts of kindness a human being can make.
Their example of kindness changed the world by setting the bar for self-sacrifice. Few, in any country, would be willing to lay aside their lives for the next generation, but these volunteers showed a willingness that leaves the world a legacy of kindness.

Unity in Kindness
In the end, every act of kindness changes the world because we are all linked—what happens to the individual reverberates through all of humanity. We are interdependent on one another and function best when we act with compassion toward one another.
So let these 10 acts of kindness that changed the world be examples for you to live by. You might just change the world, yourself

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