Kenneth L. Hardin: Will you find your gift, share it?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 13, 2022

By Kenneth L. Hardin

I honestly believe each one of us was born with a purpose or a gift that is intended to make this planet a little better during the brief time we occupy space on it.

Some of us understand our purpose and work to make it a reality while others resist that purpose and spend a lifetime being held hostage by the mental anguish of suffering from choosing not to use that gift. Those that resist their gift rationalize and explain this by blaming society, the system, the white man, the crab mentality and any other available crutch they can use to lean on.

I officiated a funeral recently for a good man. I asked those in attendance to look at their lives and ask would they be happy with the life they’ve led during that dash that separates their birth and death? 

 I also discuss this with my family from time to time. I tell them I don’t want a big funeral or any service where people are standing up and trying to scream, shout, sing and preach me into heaven or by listing my community involvement and accomplishments. I would rather for people to remember me by saying, “He gave his time, he gave of himself, and he stood for something. He tried hard to make this world a little better for his fellow man, and he was successful with it.” 

Why would anyone want to put themselves in a position to volunteer their time and energy to others? It can be a thankless job. We know the pay is not the best, the work may not be that glamorous, and I’m a living example of how the stress can severely affect your physical health. The answer is simple. The reward of knowing that just by giving a little of yourself and your time, you could positively affect one individual or society as a whole. Not everyone has what it takes to belong to this exclusive group. There’s a character trait I ascribe to people who honestly believe in giving of themselves to others. It defines the true spirit of an empath and someone who has a genuine gift to care. It’s compassion. 

There’s a story I use often during speaking engagements that defines compassion. A tired nurse was coming to the end of her long shift in the critical care unit of a hospital. She was caring for an elderly gentleman who was nearing the end of his life. His eyesight was nearly gone, and his overall health was equally poor. The sympathetic nurse knew he probably wouldn’t live through the night, so as she was leaving for the evening, she leaned over and asked the elderly gentleman if he needed anything.

He softly forced out the request in a frail, barely audible tone that he wanted to see his son one last time. The sympathetic nurse went out into the hallway where she saw a young man sitting on a bench wringing his hands and nervously tapping his foot. She grabbed the young man in a hurry, explaining, “Your father is dying and wants to see you one last time.”

The compassionate young man sat down at the bedside and wrapped the old man’s frail hands into his sturdy grip. He leaned in and whispered, “Its ok, I’m here now.” All night he laughed, cried, sang and prayed with the elderly man. The next morning, the same nurse came in and saw the young man was still there. The elderly man, however, had died during the night.

The Nurse put her hand on the young man’s shoulder and offered her deepest sympathies to the son for the loss of his father. The young man stood up and said, “He wasn’t my father. Until last night, I had never seen that man before. I was here with my wife who was giving birth to our first child when you approached me. I had a son while I was here all night with him.” 

She asked him why he stayed all night with a stranger. The young man said, “I knew his son could not be here and he really needed him. His eyesight was so poor I knew he wouldn’t know I was not his son. I don’t think anyone should have to laugh alone, cry alone, or die alone. I have a lifetime to live with my new son, but he only wanted one night with his.”  That’s compassion.

The pressing question is will you realize your purpose and use it to help others, or will your name be added to the roles of the nameless and faceless drains on society who offer nothing pertinent or relevant to this world?

 Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a former city councilman, and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. He can be reached at