One of the most inspirational definitions of kindness I’ve ever read comes from Father Lawrence G. Lovasik’s book “The Hidden Power of Kindness“:
“Not only is kindness due to everyone, but a special kindness is due to everyone. Kindness is not kindness unless it is special. Its charm consists in its fitness, its timeliness, and its individual application.
“Kindness adds sweetness to everything. It makes life’s capabilities blossom and fills them with fragrance. Kindness is like divine grace. It bestows on men something that neither self nor nature can give them. What it gives them is something of which they are in need, or something which only another person can give, such as consolation. Besides, the manner in which this is given is a true gift itself, better far than the thing given.
“The secret impulse out of which kindness acts is an instinct that is the noblest part of yourself. It is the most undoubted remnant of the image of God, given to us at the beginning.”
Some of the people who understand the power of kindness are the 53 million caregivers in the United States. Nearly one in five caregivers (19%) provide unpaid care to an adult with health or functional needs, while 26% have difficulty coordinating coverage. These people deserve kindness in return.
One of the principles of Catholic social teaching, a wealth of wisdom from church leaders about building a just society, is the concept of human dignity. Everyone matters, and everyone should be treated with love and respect.
Yet millions of caregivers and patients in the rare disease community (including my family, as my wife and daughter have Huntington’s disease) have astronomical odds and obstacles stacked against them.
In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Kate Washington, a caregiver and the author of the recently published book “Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America,” shared her caregiving challenges. The headline sums up her argument well: “50 Million Americans Are Unpaid Caregivers. We Need Help.”
Washington cares for her husband, who had an aggressive cancer that necessitated a stem-cell transplant in 2016. The transplant triggered a massive infection that robbed him of his eyesight and nearly his life. He remains chronically ill today.
“Even though I had support systems and family to help, and we could afford supplemental care, my husband’s long medical ordeal was almost unbearably stressful,” Washington wrote in her article. “Supporting a catastrophically ill person will never be easy — but in the United States today, it’s far harder than it needs to be. Our system largely abandons those with less privilege than I have to struggle alone caring for those we love most. The result for many is burnout, bankruptcy and profound suffering.”
A system that abandons those with less privilege is not a kind one.
We need political and healthcare leaders to allow their secret impulses — their noblest parts — to emerge, and to figure out how to fix the brokenness. They need to put themselves in the shoes of people who are already “toast” and let kindness reign. And then these leaders may understand what caregivers already know: Right, moral, and kind actions allow life’s capabilities to blossom, filling those around them with fragrance.
In a world that stinks with incivility, anger, violence, and division, it’s fair to say that the world needs the fragrance of kindness to fill more people’s hearts.
Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.