Newspaper article News Sentinel

Views; by Colin L. Powell; Kindness Works

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Views; by Colin L. Powell; Kindness Works

Article excerpt

How someone down on his luck taught Colin Powell a lifelong lesson

Many years ago I was the warden- the senior layperson-of a small suburban Episcopal church in northern Virginia. During that time, the bishop assigned to our parish an elderly priest, in some kind of distress and in need of a parish, to serve as an assistant pastor. I never knew the nature of his problem. We just welcomed him into the church, treated him as one of us, and ministered to him, just as we ministered to one another. He was with us for a year. On his last Sunday, he was assigned the sermon. As he finished, he looked out over the congregation and with a smile on his face quietly concluded, "Always show more kindness than seems necessary, because the person receiving it needs it more than you will ever know." That sentence hit me with a special force that has remained with me for four decades. His lesson was clear: Kindness is not just about being nice; it's about recognizing another human being who deserves care and respect.

Much later, when I was secretary of state, I slipped away one day from my beautiful office and vigilant security agents and snuck down to the garage, where the employees were immigrants and minorities making minimum wage.

The attendants had never seen a secretary wandering around the garage before; they thought I was lost. They asked if I needed help getting back "home." I told them no. I just wanted to chat.

After a while, I asked them a question about their jobs that had puzzled me. Because the garage was too small for all the employees' cars, the attendants had to stack cars one behind the other. "When the cars come in every morning, how do you decide whose car is the first to get out, and whose ends up second or third?"

They gave each other knowing looks and little smiles. "Mr. Secretary," one of them said, "it goes like this: When you drive in, if you lower the window, look out, smile, or know our name, you're number one to get out. …

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