It was probably 20 years ago that I first heard the cliche, “An act of kindness is a good investment.” Even then, the concept didn’t resonate. I thought, and still think, an act of kindness is an act of kindness. It’s merit isn’t some potential future return, but the act itself. There can never be enough kindness for kindness’ sake. In Jewish terms it reminds me of the teaching: Sachar Mitzvah– Mitzvah (the reward of performing a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself).
Currently I find myself the recipient of an extraordinary kindness. In thinking about why this kindness has been extended to me, I suspect that it is because I extended a much smaller kindness to this person in the recent past. I did it instinctively, without thinking, because it’s who I am and who I want to be. Now the whole experience has led me back to the idea of whether it’s so bad for an act of kindness to be a good investment.
Surely acts of kindness are positive in and of themselves. But perhaps the idea of the “good investment” is that acts of kindness have the potential to be redemptive. By redemptive I mean they help bridge gaps between people who might otherwise never see their commonality. By redemptive I meant they help bring us closer to the world we hope we live in: a world that is overflowing with compassion, love, and kindness.