Pierre de Coubertin

Kindness.

The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate (Merriam-Webster)

In all that we can give to those around us in our daily lives, kindness, by far, is the greatest gift. Kindness takes time and focus. Often, an act of sincere kindness means foregoing your goals or agenda.

Sharrin, in our Toastmaster’s group, gave an awe-inspiring speech on the fourth award in the Olympic games.  Have you ever heard of the Pierre de Coubertin medal?

A fourth medal — known at the Pierre de Coubertin medal — is awarded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to recognize those who demonstrate sportsmanship and Olympic spirit.  http://tinyurl.com/j7owp2e

As I sat and listened, I was profoundly moved by the stories of athletes putting their potential for the Gold to the side, because of the opportunity to be generous and kind was presented.  Kindness is something I’ve been praying about lately.  The recent debates and political candidates, in my opinion, have used unkindness in hopes to gain votes. The world around us has lost a sense of kindness due to our busy schedule and demands.

I don’t have time to be kind.

During my time of contemplation, a young man in his 20’s decided to take the challenge of riding his bike from Virginia to California. As he would share stories of his journey with his mother, my best friend and coworker, we would both marvel at the kindness of humanity in his stories. Complete strangers would provide advice at just the right time, feed him, invite him into their home for a hot shower and a meal, load his bike up and take him to his next destination, and encourage him on difficult days. He did not call ahead and pay for any of these services. It was people, in his path, at just the right time, offering him kindness that met his immediate need.

Kindness is healing when it’s a natural part of the ordinary. 

Once my mind was fixed on kindness, I began to notice, on purpose, the kindness of others. I began to challenge myself to be kind, when kindness was hard.

My Toastmaster friend, Sharrin, told the story of Luz Long, a German track and field athlete:

Luz Long, a German track and field athlete, competed in the 1936 Berlin games. He became famous for giving long-jumping advice to black American athlete Jesse Owens, even though Adolf Hitler was watching from the stands. The advice helped Owens win a gold medal.

“It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler,” Owens later said, according to the BBC“You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the 24 carat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment.”

Long was awarded the first Pierre de Coubertin medal posthumously, in 1964.  http://tinyurl.com/j7owp2e

1964-luz-long

http://tinyurl.com/j7owp2e   Jesse Owens, center, and Luz Long, right

I was able to immediately experience the power of kindness the same day I was deeply moved by Sharrin’s speech. In the copier, resource room, I was trying to organize handouts for a book study I was facilitating.  The copier was jamming up, I had little time to complete the task, and things were just not going well with the task.  A substitute teacher frantically came into the room and asked for help with technology in her classroom. The teachers who were on break immediately shared that they could not help her.  The stance was, “I’m on my only lunch break for today, and I’m not getting up.”  I looked at her disappointed and anxious expression, and I offered to help. Throwing my two-sided copy disaster to the side, I told her, “I will try.”

In front of all the students and this person in need, I told myself to think logically through this technology issue…you can do this.  After several attempts, the issue was fixed, and the students clapped, as well as the teacher. I watched as her anxiety melted away, and I smiled.  “I wish Sharrin could be here to witness the powerful impact of her speech on me today”, I thought.

My willingness to be kind when I did not have time gave me the strength and confidence to try something out of my comfort zone.

I’m no saint. I’ve been the teacher at the table without an ounce of energy left to give. I suppose that’s why it’s important to strive for kindness. We can’t always be kind, but we can strive. With all of us striving, then kindness will win most of the time.

I giggled after helping her. I visualized receiving the Pierre de Coubertin medal after fixing her problem. My kindness had no self gain, and it took time away from my goals; yet, the reward was in trusting that in my time of need a Pierre de Coubertin soul will be there to help me.

If the greatest knowledge gained in a bike ride across America is that there is hope in the kindness of humanity, it was a priceless treasure to gain for all of us.

A Pierre de Coubertin awarded to all those who act on kindness in the ordinary of this day.

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