Ryan Cassidy – The Power of Kindness
I believe in the power of kindness
by Ryan Cassidy, author of James Cagney Was My Babysitter
All my adult life, I have wanted to share with the world the story of a few hours I spent with the 1930s and ‘40s actor James Cagney as a 7-year-old boy. I wanted to share just how powerful a simple act of kindness can be. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a famous movie star or the local post office attendant. Kindness, when delivered with sincerity, can change your life forever.
In my story, a true story, I spent an afternoon with the Hollywood legend who taught me a lot of things about imagination, and the beauty of nature. But it was his disposition toward me—the gentle way he approached me and the sincere interest he showed in getting to know me—that really serves as the basis for this story. It’s a story I have put into a children’s book James Cagney Was my Babysitter. The world could use so much more kindness. That, to me, is the most important theme in my book.
We live in a world where kindness is slipping away. It certainly doesn’t seem like one of the values that is put toward the top of the list in our culture anymore. Mr. Cagney had all the material things in life that might dazzle a person, but the reason the experience affected me throughout my life is that kindness was at the heart of it all.
Mr. Cagney is remembered today as a powerful force from the Hollywood Golden Era who was known as a gangster in movies like “The Public Enemy” and “White Heat” and as a brash Broadway entertainer in “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” but none of that really matters when it comes to a genuine human experience, and it’s that kind of experience that means the most to children. I believe it affects them forever and in the wider picture of life, those children grow up to be the new examples in a new generation.
Mr. Cagney welcomed me into his home that day, as a babysitter and a friend of my parents would welcome a visiting boy. But a child knows when someone is truly interested in him, and Mr. Cagney had that quality. He was concerned about my comfort. He was interested in who I was and what made me tick. He let his guard down with me and, I think, he allowed me to see the little boy who still lived within him. I also realized much later that he knew my parents were going through a separation, which ended in divorce, and I believe he wanted to see how I was doing with it. From that aspect, he had to make sure I felt safe. Perhaps this was his ultimate kindness that day.
If you look deeper into my book, you will see the bigger reason why those moments spent with this man go far beyond the individual moments that make up the actual events of the story. Kindness is the thing. There’s no missing it.