Earlier this year, my beloved and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, and if anyone were to ask for the secret of our longevity, I reckon we’d say “tea”.
We joke that tea is the glue that holds our marriage together; every morning we bring each other a mug of tea in bed, first thing. We take it in turns. On my four working days, I do the honours. He does Friday to Sunday, plus holidays. If one of us is extra weary, we swap. On the whole, it pretty much evens out.
We’re no golden couple. In four decades, you can imagine the ups and downs. Many moves across the state, not a lot of money, depression (me), cancer (him), four children who are great but who’ve had more than their fair share of ill health and heartache. Almost as challenging as the big dramas are the minor irritations and the sheer weariness of the daily grind of work and family and the pressure of modern life while still finding time for each other.
But no matter how peeved with our partner we were, how many times we’d had to attend to the baby overnight, one of us always got up and made the tea; an exercise in and sign of enduring love.
It’s a powerful metaphor for practical loving through life’s vicissitudes. Love may start with intense feelings, but grows and lasts only if it is translated into the discipline of daily action with small acts of kindness. In the times we struggled, I believe this practice helped to set the tone of each day and created a bank of goodwill and affection to draw on when the spontaneous output of such feelings was low.
Both Hebrew and Christian scriptures venerate kindness. The prophet Micah says: “Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.” St Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Jesus’ oft-quoted instruction to “love your neighbour as yourself” is surely all about kindness – importantly, to self as well as to others.
Kindness is underrated. It sounds weak and sappy. In reality, it has to be immensely strong to withstand what life throws at us. In ordinary times, as well as in crises like war and pandemic, kindness is a vital part of what will get us through and keep us human.