Ka­vanaugh hear­ings are re­minder of mes­sage on ev­ery­day kind­ness

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION -

I had the words of that Tim McGraw song in my head as Brett Ka­vanaugh’s Supreme Court con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings in the Se­nate were be­gin­ning to wind down. Some of the girls Ka­vanaugh has coached in bas­ket­ball over the years were sit­ting in on a crash course, at times, with how bro­ken our civil dis­course has be­come — which in­cluded reg­u­lar dis­rup­tion from scream­ing protesters.

Hum­ble and kind is just about the op­po­site of the cur­rent cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal mood. And yet there it was, creep­ing in, dur­ing mo­ments such as the one when Ka­vanaugh in­tro­duced the girls, by name and grade, to the room.

There were other mo­ments too, like when Ka­vanaugh talked about his vol­un­teer work feed­ing the home­less with Catholic Char­i­ties.

“We are all God’s chil­dren. We are all equal,” he said.

That tone was very dif­fer­ent than much of the noise swirling around the nom­i­na­tion, much of it stem­ming from bit­ter­ness about Repub­li­cans hav­ing re­fused to hold hear­ings or a vote for Barack Obama’s last Supreme Court pick in the fi­nal year of his ad­min­is­tra­tion. That tone sug­gests a way out of what ails us. It has ev­ery­thing to do with virtue.

Karen Swal­low Prior, a pro­fes­sor of English at Lib­erty Univer­sity, writes about this in her new book “On Read­ing Well: Find­ing the Good Life Through Great Books.”

“Read­ing well is in it­self an act of virtue, and it is also a habit that cul­ti­vates more virtue in re­turn,” Prior writes. “The at­ten­tive­ness nec­es­sary for deep read­ing re­quires pa­tience, the skill of in­ter­pre­ta­tion re­quires pru­dence, and the de­ci­sion to set aside time to read in a world rife with so many other choices com­pet­ing for our at­ten­tion re­quires a kind of temperance.”

In his tes­ti­mony, Ka­vanaugh cited Matthew 25: “For I was hun­gry, and you gave me some­thing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me some­thing to drink; I was a stranger, and you in­vited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you vis­ited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.”

Like­wise, Prior writes: “The Beat­i­tudes de­scribe the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the hum­ble: the poor in spirit, the weak, the mourn­ful, the mer­ci­ful, the pure in heart, the peace­mak­ers, the ones who hunger and thirst for right­eous­ness. But the Ser­mon on the Mount doesn’t merely praise th­ese qual­i­ties; it of­fers a para­dox­i­cal promise in which all of those who are last shall be first.”

Prior writes mov­ingly of Catholic au­thor Flannery O’Con­nor’s short sto­ries, many of which deal with the sin of pride and the dif­fi­cult ne­ces­sity of hu­mil­ity.

She re­calls O’Con­nor once be­ing asked why she wrote and re­spond­ing: “Be­cause I’m good at it.”

This, too, wasn’t a far cry from the Se­nate hear­ing room.

Again and again, Ka­vanaugh took a healthy pride in the ju­di­cial de­ci­sions he has writ­ten.

About O’Con­nor — but per­haps it could be ap­plied to Ka­vanaugh — Prior writes:

“At first glance, this re­ply might seem con­ceited of proud. But the truth is that know­ing what we are good at and what we are not, do­ing what we were sup­ported to do and not what we aren’t, be­ing what we are sup­posed to be and not what we aren’t, is the essence of true hu­mil­ity.”

Prior de­scribes “ev­ery­day kind­ness” as “the great­est sort of hero­ism.”

It may not drive head­lines, but it could set us on the right course.

“When you get where you’re go­ing, don’t for­get; turn back around. Help the next one in line. Al­ways stay hum­ble and kind.”

Kathryn Lopez Colum­nist

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