It happened when I was in fourth grade. The sky above looked as if it would start raining at any moment. On the way home from school, there was an old beggar sitting on the ground. Back then, I often saw returnee soldiers who were rolled in bandages, injured in the Second World War, and their painful figures begging on the street corners.
For that reason, seeing an old beggar on the street was nothing special, but I became concerned by the man that I passed by, who looked feeble with his head down.
When I had finally arrived home, it began to rain heavily. I looked up at the cool sky and wondered how that man was doing. Thinking he may be drenched and cold from the rain, I grabbed a big umbrella and went back to the place where he was. He sat in the rain looking weak, as I had expected. I felt so sorry for him and wanted to stop the rain from getting him wet. I instinctively held the umbrella above the man.
It continued to rain. I couldn’t allow myself to leave that spot. The man sat in the same spot as before without saying a word. He did not even look at me once. Still, the man could sit there without getting wet. Even back then, I felt like I was doing the right thing.
The rain did not seem as if it would stop any time soon.
I think I was in that position for about two hours. It had become darker as it turned to evening. My mother, worried that I was not home, came looking for me.
“Yoshio, it’s dinner time. Let’s go home.”
“But …I can’t.” I told her.
With a little sterner tone, she said again, “We’re going home.”
Seeing my worried face and the unwillingness to go home with her, she said “Yoshio, you are a kind-hearted, nice boy. I know the pureness of your heart. But Yoshio, think about it. While you were holding that umbrella, nobody offered that man anything did they?”
She was right, I thought.
“Your kindness is truly a wonderful thing, but what if that kindness took away that man’s dinner? Then what did that kindness achieve? To be kind is a difficult thing,” she said.
As if to split my young heart apart, reason and emotion were crashing within me. It was not that I was looking for any kind of reward. If that was the case, wouldn’t the man scold me and tell me to go home? The man didn’t say anything, but he did not look unhappy either... It felt like there was a warm atmosphere between the two of us. I really wanted to do something for that man. And that was why I brought the umbrella and stopped him from getting wet. However, because of this, the old man was unable to get his dinner.
Finding the answer to the question of what kindness truly means was a piece of homework I assigned myself from then on. Kindness sometimes causes someone else to become unhappy. True kindness has the power to see the whole picture and accomplish what you believe will be good for yourself and others.
Real kindness does not need to be emotional. Even if the receiver does not willingly accept it, if you believe that something better would result from it, you should persevere with courage. That is how I chose to understand kindness in the business world, but is this really the right way?
I looked up what “kindness” was online, but even the dictionary did not give a satisfying answer. La Rochefoucauld writes:
“Nothing is as rare as true kindness. People who think they are being kind to others are usually merely trying to please people or are just weak-minded.”
This is what grownups ponder about. Not something for a 10-year-old child to think about.
What do you think?