By Nayaswami Dharmadevi Romano
July 10, 2018
This past weekend I watched “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” an inspiring documentary on the life of Fred Rogers (well known for his children’s show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”). I was deeply touched by his life story and especially how he connected with children in a meaningful and uplifting way. Children were drawn to him like a magnet, not because he wore a goofy hat, dressed up, made jokes, or did magic tricks, but because he sincerely cared for them. He created a space for children to feel safe, loved, and accepted for who they are. The kindness he exuded was powerful.
Someone once asked Swami Kriyananda, founder of Ananda, “What is your legacy?” One might have expected Swamiji to acknowledge the nine intentional communities he started around the globe… or the 400 pieces of music he dedicated to the Divine… or the 150 inspirational books he wrote, sharing the teachings of his great guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. Rather, he simply replied, “Kindness.”
Certainly, for all who attempt to attune to Yoganandaji, Jesus Christ, Buddha, or any great master, kindness should be uppermost in our minds. It doesn’t mean we will be perfect instruments for kindness at all times – we are works in progress, which is why we have to practice kindness and acceptance to ourselves as well!
One way I’m experimenting with practicing kindness is by visualizing everyone, including myself, as a baby. Even when a baby is naughty, it is hard to get upset with it and probably next to impossible to hold a grudge against it. Mr. Rogers was so successful in connecting with young children because he remembered being a child himself and how he felt in those vulnerable years.
Try to remember as far back as you can in your childhood. What brought you joy? What made you sad? What made you scared? What made you feel free? Those answers will help you understand what everyone else in the world is going through. We are all children in the eyes of God. He loves us all equally and unconditionally. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters, though we’ve had different upbringings in a sense, we’ve all suffered and felt happiness; we’ve all gone through the ups and downs of life, and we are all seeking joy.
When you see one of your brothers or sisters throwing a “temper tantrum,” try for this week to open your heart and offer a little kindness to him or her. As Swamiji says in his song, Shawl of Gold, “For it’s kindness softens the human heart.” And in softening our hearts, we make way for God’s Love to flow in unobstructed.