I never knew kindness.
It didn't jump out at me from around the corners of the buildings I passed as a child, or in the nights that my father would curse at my mother. It never met my hand as I slammed it multiple times into my room's drywall while trying to erase the sound of her abandoned sobbing.
Kindness did not introduce itself to me as I passed through the long years that I spent in school trying to escape a fate that my parents had chosen, nor did it meet me halfway when I lost the woman I promised that I would never stop loving on a cold January morning. Since kindness never shone its light on me, I never reflected it on anyone else. What gave it the right to judge me on what I said or did to my clients in my law firm? I lived with its hypocrisies while making money that being kind could never offer.
But much like other emotions, kindness can befall any man who believes in no such thing; a superstition that challenges that of the existence of the holy grail and God himself. For me, it happened near my office. A light didn't shine down and time did not slow down. The world simply kept going right around me, even though I had found something that I had thought had never truly existed.
A little girl sat on the corner stone of one of the large windows of the building that I worked in, her little torn brown shoes swayed back and forth in the thick cold air. Her hair, a dirty hint of blond, curled into a knotted mess outside of her ragged purple hat and her cheeks were scratched red by the harsh winds of winter. Her size should have made her timid, but her smile made her more of a reality. Her smile showed me kindness.
"Sir," she said while I passed her, one ear pressed hungrily against my cellphone. "What would you like?"
I looked at her strangely. My client bid their farewells and I hung up my phone surprised that this child had spoken to me. "Excuse me?"
"What would you like?" She repeated, her blue eyes glinting.
"Should I not be asking you this?"
She looked up dramatically in thought and quickly looked back at me. "No," she shrugged, "I want to know what you want."
"I have to go. Here," I pulled out a dollar, "get something hot to eat."
Her eyes didn't even stray to the money in my hand. "No."
I looked at her and unwillingly saw the torn sweater that she wore, the thin gloves that covered her small hands while grasping the surely freezing stone under her fingers, and the dirty black sweat pants that her legs swung in. "Okay," I finally said, putting the dollar back in my pocket. "What I want doesn't exist."
"I want," I said and cleared my throat looking around at the busy sidewalk that I was paused on. People rushed by me, completely ignoring the scene. "Kindness." I whispered.
"Sir, I can't understand you." She tapped her ears. "It is very hard to hear you on this busy street."
I walked a bit closer and said, "Kindness." Several people stared at me oddly as they walked by and I threw an awkward glance their way.
"Well, that's easy."
"I beg your pardon?" I asked.
"Well, most people around here want to be rich, find love, or get out from under their bosses. No pun intended."
"Of course," I nodded my head sarcastically, "so I'm the only weird one, is that it?"
"No," she whispered now, but I heard her perfectly. "You are the only kind person around us today."
"There is no such thing!" I said dignified. "That's why I am asking for it!"
"But of course there is sir!" Her eyes opened in surprise as she smiled wildly. "When you hold a door open, say a quiet thank you, pray for your loved ones; these are all acts of kindness."
"I can't be kind," I pleaded now. "I am mean and ruthless and rotten."
"I ask you then sir," she said. "What did you do when your father reappeared on your doorstep twenty years ago?"
I stood surprised for a moment before responding. "I closed the door on his face."
"And what is this supposed to prove?" I asked, ignoring the question of how she knew this.
"Your kindness of course." She reasoned. "You never told your mother that he had reappeared, even if you wanted your family to become whole again. You were just a kid and yet you knew that it wasn't fair for your mother to have your father back in through the door."
"How did you...?"
"So you see sir, you all ready have kindness." She smiled once more. "Kindness finds anyone and at anytime, whether we know it or not."
"Who are you?" I finally asked.
"I'm the girl who has helped you remember what you thought you lost so long ago. I'm glad we've met, it was very kind of you to stop by."
I watched her jump off of the street-level large concrete frame of the window. "You talked to me first, surely that can't be a kind act."
"Yes, but really, look around us sir, how many people have ever stopped to talk to me? How many keep rushing past with their lives forgetting those of us who have abandoned it?"
Her question fell heavily in the chill of the morning as the girl turned and walked away slowly while rubbing her hands together. I couldn't help but notice that her step seemed almost light, too gentle to touch the roughness of the street beneath her.