A friend said to me yesterday that she believes the most important thing we can do in life is be kind. I was so taken with her remark that I thought how wonderful it would be to sum up someone's life with the epitaph 'She tried to be kind.'
And then, of course, I wondered about the origin of the word kind.
The Online Etymology Dictionary says it is an adjective, coming to us through Middle English, Old English and Proto-Germanic. It originally meant 'natural, native, innate, with the feeling of relatives for each other.'
The sequence may have been: 'with natural feelings' via 'well-disposed', to the thirteenth century meaning 'benign, compassionate, loving, full of tenderness', which is the meaning I would assign to the word today.
I enjoyed reading this blog post on KindSpring, an uplifting piece that says this word is one of the oldest in English. The author of the blog loves his dictionary, as I do also. After writing about the pleasant discovery that kindness means 'nature', the post continues:
While these thoughts of nature swirled in my head, I decided to revisit the one book that holds so many truths for me - the dictionary. Seems odd, doesn't it? The dictionary? You see, I learned a long time ago that every word, like people, has a story. Every word started somewhere in time for reasons that are often buried in the dust of history unrecalled.A man after my own heart.
There has never been a time in the history of the planet where one species dominated to such an extent that it has the ability to destroy the environment we all share. If we humans can't learn to be kind, i.e. know we are within and part of nature, the results may be disastrous.