I just finished reading an excerpt from Roger Ebert’s autobiography Life Itself on Salon’s website. I had no idea that he was such a thoughtful writer; I only remember him from my childhood when I watched him and Gene Siskell rate movies that I would either see because of them or completely avoid because of them. Now, he has survived thyroid cancer and the inability to eat, drink or talk. My dad has always reiterated to me the mantra “Life is crazy” and he couldn’t have spoken a greater truth.
Mr. Ebert reflects on religion, dying and lessons he has learned as he moves through his ever-changing world. It is a beautiful piece of writing. Mr. Ebert’s thoughts on kindness struck me in particular tonight. He writes:
…That does a pretty good job of summing it up. “Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
It struck me for two reasons. The first and obvious one is because I believe strongly in this tenet of kindness, also. The second is because I had just witnessed Maria and Mario walk three houses down to our neighbors to deliver handwritten get well cards to one of them whose mother was ill. I had mentioned that our neighbor’s mom had to go to the hospital last night. Today, Maria drew a picture at school and one after school to cheer our neighbor up and to tell her we loved her. Mario followed suit. If there is one value that Jon and I have worked hard on instilling in these kids, it is the value of kindness, and through their actions tonight, it looks like we are doing something right.
Thanks, Mr. Ebert, for reminding me of the simple beauty of kindness.