The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Forrest Hershberger
View from the Handlebars 

Tough Enough to be Kind

 

October 13, 2021

Twice in a short period of time I’ve heard the phrase “be fiercely kind.”

It sounds like the craziest of oxymorons. Be fierce, and be kind. Kind, fierce. Opposite ends of the spectrum, or complimenting sides of the same coin?

The most recent time I heard this was in a memorial. A friend of mine left this earth. His wife, children early in their adulthood, and his friends are left to move on.

During the celebration of life service, many talked about how he was such a “get-it-done” kind of guy, a “man’s man” in the sense of being task-oriented. He was younger than I, so for a moment, it was a solemn occasion. In addition to his ability with a hammer and saw, setting up a computer system, or wearing a badge, his heart was as big as the causes that resulted in blisters and callouses. For as many years as I had known him, one of the starkest memories is when he stepped out of character and let his passion show. He softened his voice enough to lead a children's program at the last minute absence of the leaders.

Toward the end of the service, the minister encouraged everyone to live fiercely gentle.

The reference quickly reminded me of a man I met after returning from college. He is the definition of cowboy, from the stories only another ‘poke would understand to the sore back after years of physically directing farm and ranch life. He is one of those men who has callouses upon callouses on his hands and could likely be talked into a few stories over a deep cup of coffee. On one occasion I met him and a few other of his neighbors in a river bottom repairing fence, debating if they needed an H-gate or something else.

Besides his well-earned weathered exterior, or maybe a deep part of it, his cowboy way included a reverence for God. His weathered look couldn’t hide the smile that spread from his face to his heart. Even his raspy prairie voice had a gentleness to it. In a way, my two friends complimented each other although a generation apart and living in two different societies. One wore a cowboy hat nearly every time except in the house or a services, and the other had baseball hat besides his uniform.

For both, the careers and lifestyles they chose, or that chose them, could have made them fierce in the unapproachable sense. They could have worn a persona as large as the prairie sky, and as arrogant as the law enforcement cliché.

Prior to this recent event, I read another friend. It starts with “Keep my anger from becoming meanness,” ending with “Keep me fiercely kind.” In the middle is the plea to “keep my heart soft enough to keep breaking.”

Fiercely kind, and a heart that can be broken. Again, do we have a paradox, or a person who is genuinely passionate about life? Passion is more than sitting around campfires and singing to the stars. It is the smile that seems out of place as you vicariously live through someone else’s child-parent moment in the park. Passion is when you stand at the line in the sand, drawn by someone starkly opposing any other point of view, and deciding this is worth the cost.

Passion, and heart are a balance of tenderness and Aslan the lion. For those who are not C.S. Lewis fans, Aslan was known as firm but gentle... until it was time not to be gentle. He was not always safe, but he was good. When he was not gentle, all of creation shook.

Both of the men, and many others I can mention, were familiar with both sides of their passion. They didn’t always live life safe, but they were in touch with gentleness.

 

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