“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”
I’d like to share a story from the screen adaptation of North & South, a BBC presentation based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.
In the story, the family has a servant named Dixon who has a bit of an attitude. She’s been with the family so long that she forgets her place and calls it how she sees it. She is fiercely protective of Mrs. Hale, the mother. Margaret Hale (the daughter and Heroine of the story) learns of her mother’s illness and is wounded by the knowledge that Dixon has long known about it and both of them hid it from her. Dixon then relates this story:
“I’ve known for a long time time how ill she is. And, though I don’t pretend to love her as you do, I’ve loved her better than anyone else in the whole world.
“I’ll never forget the first time I saw her. The young Miss Beresford. I broke a needle into my finger, I was so nervous…and she bound my hand with her own handkerchief.
“And then…when she returned from the ball….she remembered to look in on me. She changed the handkerchief for another one. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen…or seen since.”
During this revelation, Dixon is both teary eyed and solemn but her speech is interspersed with watery smiles. I relate this because it doesn’t have much relevance to the story as a whole (thus making it relatively spoiler-free since that’s what I’m all about) but because to me it had significant relevance for life.
We see a servant, a character we don’t like much and who is sort of obnoxious…and yet, we learn something about her that makes her lovely. This tiny insight into her past defined this woman’s entire life. She forsook family and personal freedom to follow and serve a woman who showed her one moment’s kindness.
Whether you use this principle in your writing or not, I hope you use it in your life. One moment’s kindness truly takes up so little time and yet its effect can be eternal.
All it takes is a moment.
All my best,