I have a confession to make:
I’m a bit of a word nerd. Huge. Monstrous. GARGANTUAN!
Words have always fascinated me. They are the building blocks of our communication and our interactions with one another. Strung together they can be beautiful. They can encourage and motivate and inspire. Conversely, they can be cruel, mean and hurtful. They have the power to build and the power to destroy; to unify and to divide.
I have learned over the years that understanding the origin of a word (particularly from Latin) adds a much deeper meaning than we tend to give it in our casual conversations. Today I want to share three of my favorite related words.
Kindness. This word comes from the Old English:
“kind” = courtesy, noble deeds or friendly, tender + “ness” = representing an action or a state
It also derives from the Middle English: “kyndnes” = produce, or an increase.
Compassion. This word comes from the Latin words:
“Com” = with +“pati” = to suffer
Comfort. Also from Latin :
“Com” = with + “fortis” = strong and “confortare” = to strengthen much
Why are these some of my favorite terms and what do they have in common? Action. They’re all action words. And actions are louder than words.
I think that when we describe someone as kind or compassionate, we tend to see that more as a personality trait. They smile. They say nice things. They’re sweet. Those are obviously admirable qualities; however, I think we can stretch ourselves a little by making sure that as we develop those characteristics, we understand that they mean we need to act.
We do noble deeds. We suffer with someone. We strengthen them. Because of our association with them, people are better and stronger and more capable of handling their adversity. There is an increase in their ability to cope with whatever monsters life has thrown at them.
They don’t have to be big or life-altering deeds — or include food, although sometimes it’s nice. Just the effort speaks volumes. Sometimes we can simply follow the example of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet in this story:
“It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore in several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house.
“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,” said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.
“We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”
Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.”
Pooh looked at Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.
Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”
“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.”
“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.” And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.
Because Pooh and Piglet were There. No more no less.”