The Power of Small and Big Kindnesses

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

The other day someone posted an Advent calendar of Small Kindnesses on Facebook, suggesting it as a possible Advent daily project until Christmas. I appreciate things like this that can help me be intentional about doing kind acts. And you never know just how powerful a small kindness can be in the life of another. To download this Advent calendar, click here.

On Nov. 16 CBS ran a story by Steve Hartman about John Metzler who still keeps the letter written by a girl in the sixth grade over 45 years ago. He was a 23-year-old Army helicopter sniper in the Vietnam War, and didn’t know the girl.

The letter arrived on Christmas Day 1970 and it simply read in part, “Dear Serviceman, I want to give my sincere thanks for going over to war to fight for us. The class hopes you will be able to come home.” – Donna Caye. That simple letter, John said, got him through the Vietnam War.

Because he had such deadly job in such a thankless war, that little girl’s note mattered. Obviously, it could have gone to any soldier. But John took it very personally. “Fact is I think it means more today than it did when I got it,” John said. It’s because she said thank you.

It was just a small kindness, but with power beyond that small girl’s imagination.

I personally have mixed feelings about expressing my gratitude to persons who have or are serving in foreign wars. On the one hand I AM deeply grateful to anyone willing to risk his/her life to defend our country and keep all of us safe—even though I’m not really clear against what we are being defended or kept safe.

On the other hand, I am deeply troubled that our national and international leaders keep choosing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of countless men and women in ‘forever’ wars that they and we know cannot be won–like Vietnam and Afghanistan. It makes me wonder: do we really need to be defended or kept safe from ‘forces’ that require sacrificing our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in wars that leaders perpetuate rather than have to admit failure and put an end to it?

Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor and futurist, wrote: “It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a matter of converting the high technology from weaponry to livingry.”

What if, instead of training and sending people to war, a portion of our defense budget were diverted to train them instead for this work of conversion? It would certainly be a big kindness for humanity, with power to transform all life on Earth in ways beyond our current imagination!

Posted in Associate Blog, News

8 responses to “The Power of Small and Big Kindnesses

  1. We don’t have to worry much about human rights abuses in other countries until we see the “speck” in our own eyes. Ask any Indian or Black person about human rights problems in this country. Afghanistan did nothing to us. Osama, whom we trained, did…and they offered to send him to another country, but we wanted revenge on some country.

  2. But Amy, if our troops never go to places where human rights are so severely violated, how can things ever change for those for whom life has little meaning because of oppression and such?

  3. I express gratitude because my grandfathers, father, father-in-law, uncles & brother-in-law served in their various wars and “police actions”. I am grateful because they did not have a choice, especially with the draft. I sang in church choir beside one guy whose family escaped the draft by moving to Canada, and another guy who served and was career military. Personally, I would prefer peace, and for the military to use their diverse and abundant talents to fight fires, victims of tsunamis and other floods, mudslides, earthquakes, plane crashes .. I work with people in the public health service Commissioned Corps. They get deployed whenever a natural disaster occurs, or epidemic, or famine… That’s what the Department of Defense should be: defense against disasters.

  4. As the mother and grandmother of men who have or do serve our country, I wish with all my heart that this service was not necessary. But, There is no comparison between Vietnam and Afghanistan. Vietnam was part of the anti-communist hysteria of our government. We’ve learned since then that Communism died of its own weight. So that war was useless. Afghanistan is another matter. The prevailing philosophy is that we can’t let them bring it to us as they did on 9/11 but must keep a presence to remind them that we will stand against them. My grandson told me recently that part of his on-going training is the emphasis on bringing peace to wherever they are sent. Our troops, at the same time that they risk their lives, are building schools, and nursing the sick and infirm. I’m not saying they are perfect but they do try to do good. I hope your vision eventually prevails.


  5. Thank you for a thoughtful and sympathetic post. I was raised a British Army brat and the concept of questioning the purpose of war was a somewhat taboo subject. I can definitely resonate with your sentiments.

  6. Amy, I really agree with your observations and feelings about these on-going never ending wars. It really bothers me with the soldiers who have been sent to guard the Border Wall.

  7. The public is now used to the word “radical” and your words could fit right in, and be the kind of change we need. Thank you for getting our thinking out of the “box”.

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