The world needs more kindness. But while you’re out sharing kindness with the world, don’t forget to keep a little bit back for yourself.
I like to consider myself a kind person. People tell me I am. But I’m not always…especially not to myself. I never think I’ve done enough or that I’m good enough to deserve my own kindness.
At least I try and do my bit when it comes to other people. The biblical tale of the Good Samaritan made a big impact on me at Sunday School as a kid, and has stuck with me ever since. I firmly believe that our humanity is determined not by how we treat people we agree with, but by how we treat people we don’t agree with.
Mostly, these days, we treat people we don’t agree with angrily. People shout at one another on Twitter and our political leaders demonstrate the sort of leadership you’d think was unacceptably poor among three year-olds in a kindergarten while partisan media commentators rage in the newspapers or on TV.
I understand rage is good for ratings, and thus for advertising revenues, but it’s not especially good for our humanity.
Rage might be a short-term outlet. It can make someone feel better…superior, even…in the heat of the moment, fuelled by the power of righteous indignation.
But this is by far the most destructive approach in anything other than the three minutes after you’ve let someone have both barrels.
Once the sugar rush of rage subsides, all you’re left with is seething resentment — this time on both sides.
Not only do you resent whoever you disagreed with more than you did because you’ve added a huge dollop of emotion to whatever your point of view was originally. You’ve also made someone else angry, someone who might well have been blissfully unaware of how strongly you felt until a few moments ago. In the process you’ve made them hate you as much as you hate them.
Such is the pointlessness of life in the early 21st century.
Even though I’m not an especially religious person and haven’t been inside a church more than three times in the last 20 years, this situation always reminds me of my Sunday School tale of the Good Samaritan…the man who helped his enemy even though the priest and the Levite had passed him by on the other side of the road.
I know biblical tales aren’t for everyone, so thankfully Glen Campbell can take over from here on in.
“Try A Little Kindness” was the lead track from Glen Campbell’s 1970 album of the same name.
By 1970 Glen Campbell was a big star. A network TV regular, he’d enjoyed a string of big hits in the late 1960s like “Gentle On My Mind”…hugely under-rated and one of my favourite songs of all-time, which I’ve written about here… “Witchita Lineman” and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, as well as picking up four Grammy Awards.
Just as a reminder, although we have our own troubles in the world today, in the late 1960s and early 1970s young men died in their thousands fighting an invisible enemy in an unwinnable war in Vietnam even as people argued about the righteousness of that war back home in the US. A little more kindness would have gone a long way then too.
“Try A Little Kindness” was written by Curt Sapaugh and Bobby Austin and was the only major hit for that pairing. But if you’re only going to write one major hit record, it might as well be a great one. And that’s exactly what Curt Sapaugh and Bobby Austin did…
If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way
This isn’t about right and wrong. Perhaps someone is in a difficult situation entirely of their own making. We all make mistakes…I know I make plenty…
What we need is kindness and understanding to crawl out of whatever hole we’ve dug for ourselves, not contempt for the folly which put us there in the first place, or being rebuked with “you’ve got yourself into that mess, so you’ll have to get yourself out of it”.
We already know we screwed up. So what if we find ourselves in trouble because of the “seeds we sowed”?
The Good Samaritan didn’t ask the traveller why he was so stupid as to walk through an area where bandits were active or tell him to pull himself together before walking away muttering about how people only get what they deserve.
Instead, the Good Samaritan tended the traveller’s wounds, put him on his own animal and took him to a nearby inn where he paid for the innkeeper to look after the traveller until he was better again. Then he went on his way seeking neither gratitude nor repayment.
Although the traveller and the Samaritan were each from communities which strongly disagreed with one another, the Good Samaritan demonstrated a level of humanity that transcended any tribal loyalty. The bible story is about how humanity, including caring for others we might not agree with, is at the heart of what makes us human, not division or animosity.
Glen Campbell isn’t telling quite such a dramatic story, but that’s pretty much what he means by…
You’ve got to try a little kindness
Yes, show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets
Your humanity isn’t determined by how you get on with people you agree with. It’s determined by how likely you are to step in and help when someone you don’t agree with needs lifting up.
Lifting up doesn’t mean telling people they’re wrong and you’re right and demonstrating why, if only they did what you would have done, or believed what you believe, they wouldn’t have found themselves in trouble in the first place.
The Good Samaritan didn’t try to convince the traveller that his beliefs were wrong or that he was in this situation through his own foolishness.
He patched up the traveller’s wounds and looked after him despite their communities’ disagreements, not because he was looking after “one of his own”. That’s the real meaning of humanity…
Don’t walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along the way
It’s fitting that, after many years as one of Los Angeles’ most successful session musicians before having hits records of his own, Glen Campbell was joined by some of his old buddies to record “Try A Little Kindness”.
The album features Joe Osborn, Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine among the credits. The great Hal Blaine, who played on many of the biggest hits of the 1960s and 1970s passed away recently. He played drums on 150 US Top Ten singles and 40 US Number Ones including “I Get Around” for the Beach Boys, “Strangers In The Night” for Frank Sinatra and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” for Simon and Garfunkel.
RIP Hal Blaine who showed us all a great kindness by making so many iconic records for us to enjoy down the years.
And here’s Glen Campbell, encouraging us make the world a better place by showing a bit more kindness to one another…you’ll also see a smoking hot guitar solo which demonstrates why Glen Campbell was such a great session musician back in the day too.
It’s “Try A Little Kindness”…
If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/2VYF84ZzEofEYYg0cCxETc