A student described my teaching style last week as “encouraging and kind,” and that phrase has been turning in my head ever since. It’s a simple phrase, but it means so much, and it always means a lot when students see this trait in me, as it really is my mission statement for my classes.

I’ve learned some things about kindness over the years, and one is that kindness is not weak. It takes true courage to be kind, to stay gentle when pricked and bruised by hurts, to forgive when no apology has been offered and no offense has been acknowledged. Kindness doesn’t play fair, no “I’ll be nice to you, but only if you’re nice first.” Kindness isn’t a good business model; at least not on paper. Kindness acts for kindness’ sake.

Kindness can’t live without faith. Without faith, kindness burns out in a burst of light and good intentions. To put kindness out into the world, and to keep doing so requires a faith that what we give has meaning, even if no one sees it or responds. It’s like dropping a stone in a pond in the dark of night and trusting that the ripples spread and radiate, making a difference even if we can’t see it.

Kindness takes foresight. As a parent, I am not kind to my children if I cushion them from all of life’s hurts, from the struggle of work and the frustration of failure. It is not kind to ease their way now if it hurts them in the future.

Kindness is revolutionary. It doesn’t make sense and yet it makes all the difference.