Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.
   — Albert Schweitzer

We are having a heat wave in Pennsylvania today.  The sun is shining brightly, and the thermometer registers a balmy 19 degrees!  After many days of single-digit temperatures and wind chills below zero, the return of the sun and double digits makes me feel warm and happy.  I think of other winters when today’s temperature was one of the coldest, and I realize how much of our attitude toward life is based on contrasts and perceptions that we really don’t even consider.  We respond to nineteen degrees far differently when we have experienced zero than when our norm is in the high thirties.

As the sun streams through my window this morning and creates a spot on the rug where the dog has decided to warm himself, I am enjoying the feeling that winter is melting away – if only for a moment.  I can’t say that I am loving winter this year.  It has been harsh and cold and not treating me very nicely.  It has stung my face and frozen my fingers and forced me to pile on many layers to protect myself from its cold treatment.  I have tried to love winter; but the best I have done so far is to be grateful for its reprieve on this still-cold morning.  And so, today, I pass some kind thoughts about winter through my mind.

I think today about the people who bring cold chills to my otherwise warm existence.  When I am around them, I sometimes find myself layering on protection like justification, judgment, wariness, and anger – just to keep out the cold.  I try to love them, but often I fail; and in the dance we do of cold and harshness and putting on layers, we both lose and both remain chilled when we are together.  Perhaps there are times when the best we can do is something less than love.  Perhaps that something is kindness.  Can we find ways today to peel back the layers just long enough to send some kindness toward someone who makes us shiver?  Can we blaze a trail of kindness that one day might be paved so that love can make its way through the mistrust and misunderstanding?

When my children were small and arguing with one another, I would tell them, “you don’t have to like him, but you do have to be nice.”  Perhaps the adult version of that advice is, “When you cannot love, at least be kind.”  Maybe by practicing kindness we learn to love, even when we are feeling cold and distant and even when our layers are thick.