Monday, February 11, 2013

Strength, Beauty, and Kindness

"Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart." -Henry Rollins

As the dust settles in the wake of my grandfather's passing.  I've been reflective on many of the conversations we had, the things he taught me.  He spoke often about being kind.  And as one of the strongest men I knew, he always challenged my thinking on what it meant to be a strong person, something that I didn't always understand had a meaningful association with kindness.

He, along with all the strongest men I have known don't have to lead with their physical abilities, it's in their deliberate withholding of that strength, the discipline and application of their strength that shows the true depth of their nature.  Just because you are strong, doesn't mean you have to be in a state of constantly asserting it's presence.  He used to say, "It's not just recognizing where to apply pressure.  You have to know when to squeeze... sometimes the answer is that you don't, even if you can."


Strength and beauty can easily fall into the same category.  Powerful and effective, they get hung up in the superficial trappings they enjoy.  My grandfather once told me that beautiful women were the most dangerous thing in the world when they knew that they were beautiful.  That it was something that could get a woman far in the world if she were inclined to use it to her advantage.  But he told me that beauty wasn't what was needed from those born with it... beauty is really just a distraction, but that beyond beauty there needed to be depth, a depth anchored in a kind heart.  He told me to always lead with the heart.

Today I got an email from the guest book on the legacy page where my grandfather's obituary was posted.  Not knowing my grandfather as a businessman, he retired 27 years ago when I was just four years old, this particular post spoke to me.  It represented all the things I knew of him as a man and to read this warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes because I wasn't surprised.  He led with his own kind heart, his strength even more apparent because he didn't just say the words, he lived them his whole life, even when it wasn't easy or popular.

Caption: "To my very first manager. Thank you for setting the course of my career. You took a chance on me, one of the first African American female sales representatives to work for Merck, Sharpe & Dome, and I'm honored to have worked under your tutelage. Your guidance and support helped mold who I am today, and I will be forever grateful. I hope I did you proud. Rest in Peace. Kathy Melton, RN. Merck ~  Reseda, California"