Kenneth L. Hardin: Show compassion, especially to our military

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 30, 2022

I’m rarely in awe of anyone, but I’ll admit extreme admiration for the late retired Army General, Colin Powell. As an honorably discharged veteran, I have a great deal of respect for the man, but not for what he accomplished in his 35-year decorated military career.

I don’t hold him in such high regard either because of the many barriers he broke down as a Black man in the Military navigating his path during a time when the color of his skin was more of a liability than a blessing. What moved me to a state of near reverence for him was his powerful sense of integrity, his passion for providing great leadership, and his commitment to kindness and compassion. I lean more towards the latter as the greatest of all his attributes I admire because he accomplished this once he took off the uniform. It would be easy for someone in the high-level positions he held to demand respect and lead out of fear, but that was the road less traveled by the late General Powell.

  In an interview for his book, “It Worked for Me,” Powell shared stories and examples of how he developed his sense of kindness and compassion. He wrote, “Always show more kindness than seems necessary because the person receiving it needs it more than you will ever know.” This struck a chord with me because I hold a strong belief that this level of unselfishness should be inherent in each of us and demonstrated publicly. I don’t always get it right, but at least I try to. I’ll probably become a crime statistic someday because of trying to be that person. You know the one who pulls over to help a stranded motorist, who will pay for someone’s gas, lunch, or grocery when they’re a little short, who will lend until it hurts, who will mow a neighbor’s lawn, who is bothered by hate and injustice, who will yadda, yadda, yadda.

One of my biggest disappointments is the insensitivity I witness daily as people seem to place more emphasis on being callous and indifferent towards each other than practicing love and understanding. I’ve seen people almost celebrate a birthday waiting to merge into traffic or pull out from a side street. I’ve seen people allow doors to slam in others’ faces walking closely behind them. I cringe at how some will walk by a person struggling with physical challenges, but refuse to help them accomplish a task routine for many of us. People think that because for a brief moment they shake their head in sympathetic sadness and let out a barely audible “awww,” it somehow makes up for their lack of genuine compassion. Nope, it doesn’t.

I read once, “Sympathy sees and says, I’m sorry, but compassion feels and whispers, how can I help?”  Sympathy doesn’t get involved. Sympathy stands on the sidelines not wanting to get into the game and says, “I feel really bad for you, but I’m sure glad it’s not me.”  Compassion on the other hand pulls you in close, wraps its loving arms around you, holds you tight, and says softly, “How can I help take the pain away.”  A compassionate person will anticipate your needs before you ask them.

So, now I have a compassion request and I’m not too proud to beg. In the wake of the seemingly merged all in one Hallo-Thanks-Xmas-New Year’s-King-coming Valentine’s material holiday madness, I want to ask you to take your compassion level a step higher. Reach out to an active-duty soldier through your local Veteran’s Services or one of the many organizations such as Operation Gratitude that sends written correspondence and care packages to our active-duty personnel around the world. Let our soldiers know their physical absence does not diminish or replace the bigger space they occupy in our hearts. Send a care package that reminds them of the many wonderful things awaiting them when they return home. I can recall over 35 years ago as a 19-year-old Airman eating Holiday meals in the Chow Hall and going back to the Barracks to rest on a thin mattress supported only by fond memories of past family celebrations.

Let’s not forget our Rowan County Veterans here either. The courage and bravery of those, who now have their years of honorable service as decorative reminders on a wall in their homes, should be admired, revered, and appreciated as well.

The High Road, Inc. nonprofit organization is committed to helping former active-duty members navigate the complexities and challenges of returning to civilian life.

If you want to see our offering of compassion and care to Rowan County Veterans, as well as those often forgotten in the margins, and make a generous donation to help us, go to our website at https://

Kenneth L. Hardin is a former city councilman and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.