By Luca Badetti
There is a quiet stream of tenderness that irrigates our world: it sustains people, it nourishes relationships and it transforms society. We often hear of harsh and difficult news happening globally and yet, at the same time, the power of tenderness keeps bringing forth good fruit, often without us realizing its presence in our everyday lives.
During mealtimes, resident scholars help ensure that The Lay Centre dining room is a welcoming place, taking care of little important elements like table decorations and floral arrangements.
Although these little touches are not essential, they are important — they express well the gratuity of tenderness. The resident community helps to create a warm, colourful and pleasant atmosphere, in which people can feel welcomed, taken care of and respected.
Around the table, tenderness is also demonstrated day after day in other small ways: when someone serves water to another or offers them dessert, when someone empathizes with the other and checks in on how they are doing or offers them a quiet presence after a long day.
Although tenderness has often been relegated to the sentimental sphere, its breadth is much wider. Tenderness is a stance with which we approach ourselves and others with gentle respect. When we respect the other, we recognize them as precious and reveal this to them by our demeanour and actions.
Through gentleness, we accept our common humanity, with both its joys and struggles, and seek to welcome the other with great delicacy, seeking not to hurt them in any way.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Servant of the Lord using these words, which Christian tradition applies to Christ: “He will not cry out, nor shout, nor make his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench” (Is. 42:2-3).
Though injustice fills the headlines, let’s not forget to nurture and be grateful for those ordinary spaces in which we experience and give tenderness, a loving respect so profoundly human.