On October 14th, 2016, Helen Kelly, trade unionist extraordinaire, died after a courageous and very public battle with cancer.
The news kept reiterating the fact that she had been a fighter for workers’ rights all her life and had been born into a family who fought for workers’ rights but what I shall remember of Helen’s legacy are her words in the final television interview she gave.
Helen was asked about the very acrimonious Clinton and Trump US presidential campaign. She explained that it wasn’t only his politics that caused her to dislike Trump so much, it was his unkindness. He is just so unkind, she said. She hoped she wasn’t too naive in this sentiment, but she just wanted people to be kind.
Synonyms for kind include friendly, generous, considerate, thoughtful, patient. Galatians 5:22 calls kindness a fruit of the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness.” Colossians 3:12 calls kindness one of the features of love. “Love is patient, love is kind.” Or as Laurence Veinott (2000) wrote: “Kindness is love’s conduct. It’s how love behaves.”
Kindness is not some soppy sentiment, it is a call to action.
Back to Helen Kelly. She was no soppy, shrinking violet. She stood up out of kindness to fight for others who were being treated unfairly. She showed a gutsy kind of kindness that often went against the flow of those around her and that often earned her truckloads of unkind words and deeds. Her kind of kindness had backbone.
So what I will remember of Helen Kelly is not so much her fights but the kindness that led to her good deeds and which in turn often led her into battle for others.