By Dennis Edwards
Editorial Page Columnist
It’s been a couple of years since what turned into a stunning visit with my now deceased stepfather Junius Henry Hardie. Enough time to think about the unexpected power of an innocent conversation. How we discover life-altering truth in the most innocuous moments.
One of those instants unfolded while walking into my dad’s room at Obici Hospital. I was expecting to see a 91-year-old ravaged by the weariness of chronic illness. Instead, there he was laughing with a host of lovely nurses who were anxious to make him com”ortable.
‘So, Dad, what’s your secret? How do you charm so many, so well and so thoroughly?” A son was just musing out loud when he asked in mock frustration, “What is it with you? What makes these lovely ladies want to carefully spoil you?”. Before he could say a word one nurse volunteered, “I can answer that question? Do you really want to know why?”
No brainer there. “Of course, I do!” So she told me something so simple and so true I was left speechless for the rest of my visit. She said, “Kindness. Never underestimate the power of kindness”. Since Dad was kind to them, they wanted to be kind to him. Reciprocity shows up in the most predictable spots sometimes, doesn’t it?
This memory and a question, raised by a friend, sent my mind meandering back to the biblical love story of Ruth and Boaz. How Ruth, the widow of one of Naomi’s deceased sons, was gathering corn during Boaz’s harvest. How he spoke kindly to her! Told her there was no need to gather in neighboring fields, to stay in his, to take whatever she needed. Boaz even instructed his reapers to leave some of the best grain where she could easily get to it.
So overwhelmed was Ruth that she had to ask him why he showed such favor to a relative by marriage. A relative he didn’t know. Boaz said, in effect, I have been shown who you are and I have seen you are all that I was shown you’d be. He was kind to her because he liked who she was, her loyalty and love for Naomi. He liked that she was the wonderful person she appeared to be.
Isn’t that where love begins? When we see someone and our natural reaction is to be kind because we appreciate who they are? Most of the time we have no idea why. We just do.
And the mystery in these seemingly minor moments, or should I say the majesty therein, can hide historic implications for a person and an entire people. Boaz and Ruth eventually got married. Obed was their only child. His boy Jesse had 7 sons. The youngest was David, the Shepherd boy who would become Isreal’s beloved King. Through the Providence of God, the union blessed a nation while restoring the family and prosperity Naomi lost with the death of her husband and sons.
For Boaz and Ruth, love started with simple acts of kindness in the everyday affairs of a widow looking to feed her family. Boaz was thoughtful on several levels. He respected her healthy sense of independence, went out of his way to put food where she could get to it instead of simply giving it to her.
Ruth apparently inspired, awakened something in Boaz. Maybe it was no more than making him feel like a teenager again in spite of the hardening experiences of his aging heart. Probably made him feel needed, like maybe he never thought he’d feel again
Isn’t that the precinct we’re all pursuing, the shelter we’re all looking for. The space and place where love begins again and again. Seems it flashed a glimpse of itself in the most unexpected venue, on the field of life, in a hospital room where Dad’s kindness inspired a group of nurses to love him back.
This genesis is woven into the most peculiar scenarios, mixed in among the harvests of everyday fields of living, where kindness is so often the place where love begins