So today this article (Social Scientists build case for Survival of the Kindest) was floating around Facebook, at least on my timeline. The article is from 2009 when I remember writing a sermon about downside to all the “happiness” going around. In the years post 9-11-01 we obsessed with staying positive, we possibly still do.
This is particularly true for us in the church, church has to be a place where only good things happen. Where Mary accepts the announcement of the angel, where a beautiful baby is born and where Jesus concurs death. People have to come to church in their best clothes, with their perfectly behaved children and their saintly, unwavering faith. God forbid we acknowledge that there were hardships and difficulties like overcoming the possibility of being stones to death by her family and fiance, the slaughtering of the innocents, and a horrifying betrayal and crucifixion. God forbid we acknowledge that we are not perfect and all sin and sometimes do not believe.
There are difficulties in life, we all have bad days, but we still preach kindness, love, goodness- because in our faith, everything did work out in the end… just not the way we expected. This is not necessarily because of kindness, but generosity, love, and commitment, all of which we can embody in kindness. So here are some thoughts:
Take Initiative – My kids and I were shopping for groceries and they were handing out free samples (my kids LOVE this by the way) and one of the samples were apples- yes apples. My kids (6 & 3) both ate an apple the rest of the trip. At checkout my 3 year old choked on the skin and gagged. He proceeded to spit up in my hand (yes, the things we do as parents). Just then a woman who had seen what was happening ran over with a wad of napkins for me. I was eternally grateful. I never would have asked anyone for help out of my embarrassment, but when I needed it, it was there.
Know When to Restrain Yourself- So the opposite of helpfulness is well, getting on my nerves… There was another time, over three years ago when I was in the grocery (hey- we all spend a lot of time in grocery stores). My son was no more than 2 weeks old and I was using the grocery as an “outing excuse” to walk around, etc. All of a sudden a middle aged woman comes running up to the cart and yells “I just HAD to come see”. Really… you have so little self control that you just HAD to come see my baby. Try a little restraint, look from afar, I’m not in the mood. Just pay attention and ask yourself if you’re being helpful or selfish.
Keep Hands, Feet, and All Other Objects to Yourself – My daughter and I were in the bank and she was flicking herself, you know where you take your middle finger to your thumb and push, well anyway, she was. She was telling me it didn’t hurt and then she did it to me. It didn’t hurt, but I told her it did because she shouldn’t go around flicking people (off, on, or otherwise). Then I said, “You can do it to yourself, but you shouldn’t do it to anyone else”. The teller looked at me and said “sound advice for many things”. hmmm… not sure about that, but it worked in this case, and in the cases of little white lies and anytime it involves people’s hair, butts, etc.
Give Generously– Of your time, your talents, and your money. This summer I was working with a seminary intern and a friend called, it was one of those moments where I spent an hour on the phone calming and supporting them. When I came back to my office I looked at her and said, “One of the most important things we do as ministers is to take or return phone calls.” This is true for everyone, it’s what makes us human and able to be kind, we have to support and be supported by our friends. Some people have more time than others and have preferences for phone, text, email, etc. I have people I talk, text, Facebook or twitter to daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly. But I take their calls whenever possible, I followup with them when I can’t, and I tell people when I’m thinking about them. Those conversations, these relationships nurture me and them. Without them I would be but a noisy gong or clanging cymbal.
Finally– always, always, always over tip. 20% is the minimum, unless they were REALLY, REALLY terrible and even then it’s 10-15% trust me, they need that dollar or two more than you. Smile at people, all the time, look them in the eye, and even when they are annoying the crap out of you- suck it up, it’ll be over soon.