COUNSELOR'S CORNER: Love and kindness overcomes

 By Fred Cavaiani


About two weeks ago I volunteered to drive some homeless people from the South Oakland Shelter in Southfield, Michigan to my local parish across from Oakland University. There were three guests in my car. They were warm, friendly, kind and highly skilled.  They were African American women who had certifications in Information Systems but were finding it very difficult to get a job.  The South Oakland Shelter helps them find jobs. These guests stay overnight at various churches who host them for a week. For seven days they would sleep at one of the churches who offered their premises for shelter.  One of the ladies was telling me how kind and compassionate our parish is.  She then related the story of one of the churches of the previous week where she had stayed—telling me about one woman with a crabby expression who was serving them their supper. She said that this woman looked angry and unwelcoming.  The lady who was telling me this story said: “At the end of the meal I decided to go up to this lady with a big smile and I told her how grateful I was that she served supper to us.”  Listening to this story of a woman overcoming rejection with love made a lasting impression on me.  I wonder what the crabby lady serving the food must have felt when one of her guests so kindly embraced her and thanked her.


The other day one of my daughters was having a bad day and was crying about a letter she had received from a former employer claiming they had overpaid her and demanding money from her. Her eldest daughter noticed this and said “Mommy, what are you crying about?” My daughter said in simple terms, “someone wants money from me.”  Her six-year-old disappeared from the family room for a couple of minutes then came back with her jar of money saved from the ‘tooth fairies,’ gave the jar to her mother and said, “Here mommy, take this money and give it to them. No one is going to make my mommy cry.”  This was indeed another selfless act of love.


Each of us has felt rejection.  All of us have had painful and soul wrenching experiences.  Sometimes people have hurt us, either deliberately or unconsciously. Our first reaction is to feel bitter and angry toward these people.  There is an almost natural tendency to withdraw from life at these times. We can easily foster resentments and have ‘get even’ thoughts toward people who have hurt us.  When we react with anger and resentment and bitterness we make ourselves miserable as well as the people around us. People who journey through life with a chip on their shoulder want the rest of the world to suffer for this chip. Life can be difficult and often not go in the direction we have desired.  What can we do about this?


Hearing these two stories awakened in me something that I believe everyone realizes but can find hard to practice.  Love and kindness to all can be very healing, first for ourselves and then for the people to whom we are giving love and kindness.  We can overcome hatred with love.  We can overcome misery with kindness. 


In the late 60s I remember marching for Civil Rights in Milwaukee where people yelled at us, spit at us, and called us names in not so polite terms.  Yet, many of the people with me bravely walked on with kindness and warmth.  Many of my friends had walked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  One related the story of marching in the South with Dr. King. A bystander took a cigarette lighter with the flame on and put it to the cheek of a marcher. The marcher stayed calm and compassionate, walked over to the bystander who had just burnt him and said “I am sorry you hate me but I love you and care about you.”  That bystander joined the march.


Whenever we give angry and critical people a hook to put their misery upon we help continue the misery.  We do this when we fight back with criticism and anger.  When we treat others with patient kindness and love we create a loving and positive atmosphere and indirectly allow the anger and resentments of others to fall back upon themselves. Many times we create the occasion for others to take a good, honest look at themselves. We haven’t corrected or criticized them. We just treated them with kindness and compassion. 


The other day I was eating at a restaurant where the waitress had an expression on her face that said to all of us, “you are a bother to me and everything I have to do to serve you is a bother.”  I watched one of my friends continually treat this lady with love and compassion. Internally I wanted to give this waitress a piece of my mind and call the manager.  But watching my friends inspired me to be kind also.  This waitress will only learn when someone lovingly takes her aside, compliments her for her hard work and then lovingly explain to her what service is all about.  


Maybe this is the mission for all of us—to compliment others and show by our example what loving service and kindness is all about. 


We make the world a better place by our love and kindness and ability to see goodness all around us. A fifty-year-old homeless woman reaffirmed this for me two weeks ago. My granddaughter did the same a few days later.  Many of my friends teach me this principle day after day. My wife, our son, our two daughters and two sons-in-law, and our grandchildren are the best teachers of showing me what love and kindness is all about.  I want to spend the rest of my life bringing love and kindness to everyone. 


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage & family therapist and psychologist with a private practice in Troy.  He is the founder of Marriage Growth  Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical  Center. He conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeastern Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday.  He can be reached at 248-362-3340.  His e-mail address is: and his website is