Les Miserables: Small Acts of Kindness

“You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. We pardon to the extent that we love. Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be lonely again. The great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. Loved for ourselves and even loved in spite of ourselves.” – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Although I have never been to the West End to watch the live musical, I must admit it was entertaining and intriguing enough to watch Tom Hooper’s adaptation on screen more than once.

I am not a film critic but going beyond the discussion on the actual movie, its actors and their singing, one cannot but think of the themes raised up by Hugo’s novel written 150 years ago which are more than relevant to us today. The theme of social justice and God’s mercy are enough to discuss at length, however what I want to discuss here is how a single act of kindness can have huge ripple effects.

Jean Valjean, having just been released from prison, searches for a place to stay and is welcomed in by Bishop Myriel, given supper and a place to sleep. To this act of kindness Valjean replies by stealing from the Bishop’s silver; only to be caught later by the police.

As soon as he is taken back in front of the Bishop, he is not only forgiven by the Monseigneur but given two extra silver candlesticks so that he can use the silver to become an honest man. In fact he does so, only to be haunted by Inspector Javert throughout the whole story, the candlesticks ever present as a reminder of the Bishop’s actions.

Kindness is not just an attribute for the virtuous Christians, it is something we can all practice easily in our lives whether we follow any religion or not. Acts of kindness are sometimes easy to make yet the effects they have on people’s lives are tremendous. It doesn’t have to be that kindness leads to a conversion like Valjean’s, however one small act of kindness can change a person’s life.

I do believe that if all of humanity practices kindness more often, in our actions and in our words, we would be living in a much better society. Egoistically speaking, this can benefit the individual himself because if one is kind, it is likely that he will receive kindness back. This however is not always the case; even the Saint of Calcutta, Mother Teresa was aware of it, “If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.” Putting kindness into practice, even when in difficulty because of circumstances and individuals, will make us better people living in a better world.

May we all put into practice the words of the Dalai Lama: “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”


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