Human Exceptionalism

The Milk of Human Kindness: The Way Life is Supposed to Be

We get so caught up in our differences, that sometimes it is good to see that the milk of human kindness remains–even among the most bitter ideological foes–well, the milk of human kindness. That was my reaction to a column by very conservative, pro life columnist Robert Novak, just diagnosed with serious brain cancer. And who were big helpers of Novak in his time of need? The very liberal, pro choice political consultant, Bob Shrum, the very liberal, pro choice Senator Ted Kennedy (who also has brain cancer) and his wife Vicki, as well as the very liberal, pro choice columnist Al Hunt and his wife, reporter Judy Woodruff.

From Novak’s column:

My dear friend, the Democratic political operative Bob Shrum, asked Sen. Kennedy’s wife, Vicki, to call me about Dr. Friedman. I barely know Mrs. Kennedy, but I have found her to be a warm and gracious person. I have had few good things to say about Teddy Kennedy since I first met him at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, but he and his wife have treated me like a close friend. She was enthusiastic about Dr. Friedman and urged me to opt for surgery at Duke, which I did.

The Kennedys were not concerned by political and ideological differences when someone’s life was at stake, recalling at least the myth of milder days in Washington. My long conversation with Vicki Kennedy filled me with hope.

What greater gift can anyone give someone facing a life-threatening illness?

Novak had surgery that removed a large cancer from his brain and received succor from his friends Hunt and Woodruff. And also from someone else. He continues:

Support for me and promises of prayers sent for me poured in from all sides, including political figures who had not been happy with my columns. I’m told that President George W. Bush has not liked my criticism, particularly of his Iraq war policy. But the president is a compassionate man, and he telephoned me at 7:24 a.m. on August 15, six minutes before I went into surgery. The conversation lasted only a minute, but his prayerful concern was touching and much appreciated.

Yes. When illness or death strike, it is always heartening to see the hatchets buried and people acting with true compassion and love. Let’s remember Novak’s tale during the upcoming bitter campaign season.