"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." (unknown author)
A neighbor, Bill Kisor, age 81, died a few weeks ago. Prior to his death, he told me he did not have long to live since he was suffering from cancer and lung disease. During the course of our conversation, I asked him to summarize his life. He said, "I think I did a little bit of good." He had served in the U.S. Navy and was active in community affairs. Anyone who has done "a little bit of good" will be rewarded or, as evangelical christians say, "he is saved." Jesus told us everyone who gives a thirsty person a cup of water will be rewarded.
In an interview toward the end of his life, Aldous Huxley was asked, "Dr. Huxley, perhaps more than anyone else in the world, you have studied all the great religions and spiritual traditions; can you summarize for us what you feel you have learned?" Huxley replied, "I think just to be a bit kinder." Being a little bit kinder is a sure remedy for depression since it calls for a transformation of internal conversation. The focus is no longer of self; our minds and internal thoughts are directed toward "doing a little bit of good."
There certainly is no spiritual practice more profound than being kind to a family member, relative, neighbor, cashier at the grocery store clerk at a ticket counter at a bus station. Recently I witnessed a very rude person in a ticket line at the Portland Greyhound Station. This man was cursing, yelling at his wife and kids, the clerk, etc. He should have been arrested. On the other hand, I observed the kindness of a young gentleman at a rehearsal dinner. Having to leave early, he did not leave before he made his rounds with a warm handshake and kind words.
People who have met and visited with the Dalai Lama remark about his kindness and joy as it issues from his words and life. It is a happy experience. He is an open, receptive and spiritual person. He's a "full-time" kind person, while most of us are only "part-time" kind people. The "full-time" kind person is kind to the gas station attendant and bagel boy at the bagel shop.
When an angry crowd was stoning to death St. Stephen for being a christian, Stephen looked up and cried, "Father, please do not hold this against them!" His kind outlook did not depend on anything outside himself.
The notion that a bad night's sleep, a careless driver or a rude sales clerk can ruin our disposition is a false notion. I heard of an American saint, a woman who called herself Peace Pilgrim, who walked across the United States with no possessions other than the clothes on her back and a toothbrush in her bag. She was the embodiment of loving kindness to such an extent that when a deranged young man attacked her and beat her viciously on her head and face, she would not even lift her hands to fend off the blows. She just stood there and looked at him with such compassion that he fell to her feet crying.