A Lesson from Unbroken: Lifesaving Kindness
Earlier this week I finished reading Unbroken, from Laura Hillenbrand. The book tells the fascinating story of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic distance runner and World War Two Prisoner of War in the pacific theater, who went on to learn about grace, forgiveness, and the new life that only comes from Christ. The book is not what you would consider to be a “Christian Biography”, but rather comes off as a biography of someone who is a follower of Jesus, a subtle but significant difference. I love hearing people’s story, and this book tells a pretty cool story… it is a great downtime read.
While the entire book was fascinating to me, one story stopped me dead in my tracks. Imprisoned in a Japanese death camp, having been mistreated and regularly beaten by guards, a new guard showed up on the scene introducing himself this way:
“You Christian?” the guard asked… The guard gave his name, which Louie would later recall, with some uncertainty, as Kawamura. He began babbling in English so poor that all Louie could pick out was something about Canadian missionaries and conversion. The guard slipped two pieces of hard candy into Louie’s hand, then moved down the hall and gave two pieces to Phil.
The guard showed compassion and kindness to the POWs that he encountered, treating them humanely and with dignity within a system that was designed to remove the last shreds of dignity that a man had. He also encouraged other guards to do the same (you will have to read the book to find out how). But what struck me was this line towards the end of this short part of Louie’s story:
Kawamura could do nothing to improve the physical conditions in which the captives lived, but his kindness was lifesaving.
Often, in our day to day lives we lack the ability to affect the overall situation in which we find ourselves… but we still have the power to influence those we come in contact with. You may not be able to change the circumstances of those you meet, but your kindness speaks volumes.
As I survey our cultural climate, the thing that most concerns me is the way that we divide and objectify people. We separate people into us and them: those who pay taxes, or the 47% that don’t; those who pay into welfare, and those who live off it; the wealthy, and the 99%; and any number of other ways that we divide the world around us. In the midst of all this division and separation, it is easy to forget that those people are human, that they are children of God, just like us. In the midst of our dehumanizing divisions, those people need love and kindness from us… lifesaving, life-changing, kindness.
How do YOU extend lifesaving kindness to others?