Title: The Power of Human Kindness
Date: For the Week of June 16, 2008
It is naïve to think there is never a time when force will be required or when
legitimate power has to exert itself. Parents do have to use their authority in
order to civilize and nurture unruly adolescents. Bosses sometimes have to
fire people who are working against the company's policies and best interests.
Generally speaking, however, the power of human kindness is a superior
form of power to brute force. An attempt to lead by persuasion should always
go before the last-ditch requirement of confrontation and pulling rank.
Gail Halvorsen was taught these ideas about kindness, service to others,
and the like back in Sunday School as a boy. Now a retired colonel of the
U.S. Air Force, he never tires of telling about a situation where putting his
convictions to work helped change the course of history. It helped turn an
enemy into an ally.
Halvorsen was a pilot in Europe during and after World War II. In post-war
Germany, he was on the ground in Berlin. Some of the many hungry children
in the once-prosperous Germany that Adolf Hitler had reduced to penury
flocked around him and his buddies to ask for food. They were hungry. They
were begging for a scrap or bread or a handout from the soldiers' rations.
Halvorsen didn't have any food for the group of about 30 kids. He had two
sticks of gum in his pocket. He handed them to a couple of the children - and
had a bright idea. The next time he dropped food into the Soviet-blockaded
area of Berlin, he dropped gum and candy out for the children as well. When
word got back to his superiors of what he and now other pilots were doing,
there was a chewing out for their "unauthorized activities." But one general
defended what the pilots were doing. He encouraged them to keep it up.
And soon American candy companies were providing chocolate bars and
chewing gum by the tons.
As Halvorsen puts it, "It wasn't the chocolate. It was hope!" Little children
and their beleaguered parents were encouraged to believe that things would
someday be better for them. Historians of the period have credited the candy
drops for helping change the attitudes of the German people toward their
recent enemies in war. The same non-government program is also credited
with altering American attitudes toward the German people.
Maybe there are children for you to help in your neighborhood, through
your company's involvement in the larger community, or in some ministry of
your church. Maybe the people to think about aren't even children. Maybe
there is just someone who needs an act of positive kindness that you can
provide. There are certainly no guaranteed outcomes, but it probably won't
do harm to be gracious.
It could even turn an enemy into a friend or heal an old wound. Sweet!
The Power of Human Kindness