Larry Banman " True kindness doesn’t come with strings attached
December 22, 2008
The sun was gone on Sunday by 4:35 p.m. Even though it shone brightly most of the day, there was virtually no melting of ice and snow. That’s how low in the southern sky the sun had dipped.
Winter officially started on Sunday. Described another way, Sunday was the shortest day of the year. Darkness had descended and enveloped the high country by 5 p.m. The gloom was increased to an even greater degree when the Denver Broncos lost the lead and a close game to Buffalo.
I have done a complete 180 degree turn regarding the shortest day of the year. I was a less than willing farm laborer in the formative years of my life. To me, December 21 was the day that officially started the countdown to working on the family farm from dawn to dusk, six days a week. It may have been the first day of winter to other people. To me it meant my favorite season, autumn, was over and the calendar’s relentless march to spring and farmwork had begun.
I’m sure it wasn’t quite that bad, but it sure seemed that way to a myopic Kansas farmboy who enjoyed playing with toys and watching football games more than contributing to the survival of his immediate family. You could probably guess that June 21 was my favorite day of the year, for the exact reasons stated above.
Today, from early November until the 21st day of December I agonize over the short days. The work day begins before sunrise and finishes in the dark. The lack of sunshine leads to a Vitamin D deficiency that I am quite sure is one step from insanity. The shortness of the days in Grand County almost defies description. I am certainly no candidate for a move to Alaska. I lived for one winter in a small town north of Seattle, Wash., and that was quite enough for me.
This Sunday, as I watched the sun slip into Gore Canyon, I realized that I would be more optimistic on Monday than I was on Saturday. Even though the sunlight would last only seconds longer than Sunday and be exactly the same as Saturday, Monday would feel longer and, probably, warmer. I know that the Burpee’s seed catalog will soon be in my mailbox and I will start to envision new shoots emerging from the rich, black earth of my backyard garden.
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It is, you see, the time to start thinking of new beginnings. The upside of starting the process of looking ahead is that you will have the jump on everybody who is waiting for their New Year’s Day hangover to make a few resolutions about starting anew, giving up the drink, dropping a few pounds, and the like.
I generally resolve to give up drinking Mountain Dew. That usually lasts until the first day of basketball practice, which starts this year on January 2. I always resolve to lose a little weight, but I make that promise every time I see myself in a mirror, so I’m not sure why a New Year’s resolution should be any more effective.
This past August, I heard something in a Sunday-morning sermon that has been rattling around in my head for the past four months. The sermon was basically about the value of random acts of kindness. That type of altruistic statement I expect from my regular infusions of theology. What I didn’t expect was a suggestion that many of our acts of kindness are attempts to manipulate.
At first I considered that thought invalid but, the more introspective I became, I realized that many (too many) of my acts of kindness are, indeed, manipulation. I realized that I am seeking an exchange for a return favor, sometimes something as basic as a compliment. I started to examine my acts of kindness for their sincerity.
A true act of kindness doesn’t come with strings or conditions. If it does, then it truly is a sugar-dusted type of manipulation, of seeking something in return. When you deposit a true act of kindness in another person’s life, you should leave it, turn on your heel and not look back. What that person does with what you gave them, is completely up to them.
And that will be how I look forward to using the next days of my life, even as they bring more and more rays of sunshine.