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Yesterday, I had jury duty.  To put it kindly, I was not looking forward to a single part of it.  Let’s just say that this isn’t the first time I’ve been called and I am never selected for a jury.  So don’t lecture me.  No, seriously.  Do not.

That was where I was mentally when the judge took the lectern.  He introduced himself and thanked everyone for being there.  I managed not to roll my eyes. “No, seriously.  I’m not saying that because it’s your civic duty.  I’m saying that because you are all making a huge sacrifice.  You are missing work, volunteer activities and time with your family and friends.”  The more he talked, the more we understood.  He got it and we felt appreciated because clearly we the people had been seen and heard.  The change that came over the group was amazing.

Throughout the day, I saw this effect again and again.  Someone would mess up going through security (I have no clue who that woman was, ahem), and the guard just smiled.  “Let’s try something different this time.”  And the whole time they chatted and set people at ease.   They took their jobs seriously but they saw clearly that a little kindness made the day go better for everyone.

–SueBE

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What if we find out Darth Vader was really just a nice guy, if a bit misunderstood? A man in Tennessee whose father was a Star Wars fan was saddled with the name of the dark lord and seems to have a sense of humor about it.

In other off-beat news, it won’t come as a big surprise that Kafka was a terrible boyfriend, would it? Reading his letters to his fiancée, it seemed he saw everything – even love – in a, well, Kafkaesque light.

I love light-hearted stories like these. But I really love reading stories that start out on the dark side and end up reaffirming my faith in humanity.

A distressed man on the autism spectrum who had attacked his elderly parents was admitted to a Chicago hospital. Instead of sedating or subduing him, the security officers sang to him, calming him down and defusing the situation.

When a teacher saw her 7-year-old student riding his bike on a busy highway, she found out his diabetic father had collapsed at home. When he couldn’t unlock his father’s phone to call 911, he got on his bike to ride five miles to his grandmother’s house. The teacher called for help, and the boy’s father recovered.

Every bad news story starts from a place of pain, doesn’t it? The person involved may be called by different names: gunman, perpetrator, criminal. But it all starts with a “dis.” Disrespect. Feeling disenfranchised. Dismissed. Pain is like a chain letter. Someone feels slighted. They take that pain with them and slight someone else and it spreads like a virus.

The antidote to the “dis” is to not react in kind, but to unpack the pain behind the anger. Will compassion put an end to the cycle of pain? We can only live in hope.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Looking for a picture to go along with this post, I typed in the search term, “Golden Rule.” The result was the picture you see here: a ruler placed on a golden background. Oh, dear. Could it be that the younger generation has never heard this term before? Is it not being taught anymore?

Here’s a little pun. Maybe in 2020, everyone will miraculously wake up with perfect vision. Even if we still have to wear glasses, there must be a way to fine-tune our vision to see that the words we say have lasting impact. If we all woke up on January 1st and made the resolution to speak kindly to everyone, we’d be looking at a whole new world.

Last week, UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi went viral with this exuberant routine that earned her a perfect 10, but she had once quit the sport altogether. Nobody knew her struggle behind the scenes. Fans would tell her she “wasn’t good enough” or “didn’t look a certain way” and when she gained weight, she was compared to a “bird that couldn’t fly.” With fans like that, who needs enemies?

I gave up on social media this week after I realized its net effect (another pun!) on my psyche was negative more often than positive. It seems to be standard operating procedure for most to mock and provoke people who don’t see things the way they do.

If something or someone in your life isn’t building you up, it may be tearing you down. Let it go. You’ll lighten your own load and see the world more clearly.

I’m convinced that the totality of woes in this world are utterly determined, enacted and exacerbated by human selfishness — the almighty “I.” You know: I am the center of the universe; my needs are most important; everyone who isn’t me is other, and they are the problem. What we entirely forget is that we completely dependent upon one another, not just for day-to-day life, but for the overall progress of humankind. When it comes to saving the planet, saving the future or saving our souls, I is not going to cut it.

We must change our capital “I’s” into lowercase ones. For instance: I explain, sermonize, pontificate, demand; i listen. I order the world for my own benefit; i put the good of others first. I build walls; i build bridges. (You get it.) If we fail, humanity fails. No less than that hangs in the balance.

Let us whittle our serifs into tittles. (No, I’m not being obscene; “tittle” is the name of the dot on the lowercase I; serifs are the decorative little lines on a capital I.) It is the only way to become like Jesus. Yes, I know the consensus is to capitalize all things God-related out of respect, but Jesus was the littlest “i” person in all of history. Everything he did was for us — not just the “us” who lived in Middle East during his time, but all of us, for all generations, including those yet unborn. Jesus saved all of us from eternal death. Let me put it this way: Think of how many people Jesus actually knew. Now think of how many people Jesus has saved. It takes great heart and complete abandonment of ego to give one’s life not just for your friends, but for people on the other side of the planet, centuries apart from your own existence. None of us can even imagine doing that, much less do it.

The world has nearly come to ruin numerous times because of big I’s. It has always been saved by small ones. So, which do you choose? As for me, I’ll just be over here whittling down my serifs.

Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby.  They were Bumpa’s favorites and when he was sick I’d spend Sunday afternoons by his side watching them sing and dance their way across the screen.  I spent a great deal of time that fall on the Road to Wherever.

I knew Hope could sing and dance and crack a joke, but who knew he was so clever?  I’m sure someone did but it wasn’t me.  I’d compartmentalized him in my memory.  Singing, dancing, funny man.

Compartmentalization is a huge problem in our world.  Us and them.  Republican and Democrat.  Liberal and conservative.  Deserving and undeserving.

I admit that I tend to get a bit squirmy when a discussion moves towards who deserves help and who doesn’t.  Haven’t we all received help at one time that we didn’t deserve?  Maybe someone helped you change a tire or pay a bill out of the kindness of their heart.  But there is also God’s grace.  We can’t earn it.  We don’t, strictly speaking, deserve it.  But God is loving and kind and charitable.  He gave it to us anyway.

I’m not saying I’m perfect.  Far from it.  We writers compartmentalize all the time.  It’s part of how we pitch ideas and decide what information belongs in a project and what doesn’t.  Sometimes this writing habit finds its way into the larger world.  Sometimes I catch myself.  Other times?  I’m human but I like to think my heart is willing.

–SueBE

Scrolling through one of my favorite sites, Katzenworld, I found an interesting article about feeding cats raw food. There was a picture of the recommended brand, along with the words, “Made with Human Meat.”

What the heck?

Nearly fell off the chair. Had to scroll back up quickly.

“Made with Human Grade Meat.”

Oh. That’s a relief!

For a minute I thought I’d taken a turn into the Twilight Zone, and stumbled into the Little Shop of Horrors!

One word can make all the difference sometimes.

In today’s political climate, you don’t have to agree with everybody you meet. Online, you don’t have to dignify mean-spirited comments about what you believe, or where you come from, or how you live. But sometimes, one word of kindness can change the conversation.

And if it doesn’t, you may come to the conclusion that this isn’t a conversation anyway, but a monologue. You can always – respectfully – unfollow people who bring drama into your feed. This is true in real life as well. There comes a time when you realize that people who were once your friends bring nothing but negatives into your world. It’s okay to let them go.

In many cases, this will happen by attrition as you refuse to get sucked into the vortex of either/or online. You’re one of us, or you’re one of them. Someday, the zeitgeist will change, and we’ll see each other as people again. Until that time, unplugging from the constant barrage of angst and anger will do your soul good. Here’s one word that will hold your heart together: peace.

Mother’s Day started with a power outage this morning around 9 AM.

Hm. Looked at my phone. Only half charged.

Can’t use the internet.

I’ll read my books on Kindle. But… no service. My books are in the cloud.

Well. I’ll go start my coffee.

But. No water.

Hm. Oh wait! I saved my coffee from last night. It’s in the fridge! Yay.

But. No microwave.

Getting chilly in here. Let me turn up the heat.

But. No heat.

So I went back to bed to bundle up. Just then, I heard a car pulling into my neighbor’s driveway, music blaring. Man, that’s loud. What an idiot. Had to catch myself there. No need to be unkind.

It reminded me of the time my father was teaching me to drive. “Watch the idiot,” he said, as another driver encroached on my lane. I had to laugh at the memory. He was always glad to see me when I would visit the house. And my mother would greet me by saying, “You’re the greatest!”

It’s fitting that this happened on Mother’s Day, as we all have a mother (here or in Heaven) and we often take for granted how much she means to us.

In today’s climate, just reminding yourself not to be unkind is an act of kindness. Usually, people aren’t blasting their music to annoy you, but to enjoy their own life. The power goes out sometimes. It’s nothing personal.

This was a gift to me today. A reminder to appreciate the power, all the way up to the power source.

Do something today to show appreciation for all that God provides.

Or at least, don’t be an idiot.🙂You’re lucky, and you know it. This is a good day to remind yourself of the blessings you take for granted.

I think this quote caught my attention because spring is finally here.  At least in Missouri.  I’ve got basil and thyme sprouting in my dining room and am getting ready to seed morning glories.  All of these will be planted in the beds that line the front of our house.  The crocus and daffodil have bloomed.  The lilies and iris are coming up.  And the herbs are coming back as well.  Sunlight and a bit of warmth have made amazing changes in the past week.

Kindness works much the same way.  Whether it’s a kind word or a smile, kindness begets kindness.  Share God’s light and love and watch it grow as it passes from person to person.

–SueBE

 

Credit: Elfie Hall

When my son was young, he asked me how to pronounce the name of a particular Egyptian pharaoh.

“Hatshepsut,” I said. “Friends called him Bill.”

He cracked up, so I had to keep going. “I mean, what else could they call him? Hat? Shep? Sut? Nah. Bill.”

Looking up the name on the computer later, I was mildly chagrined to learn that this ruler was actually a woman! Oh, blerg. Digging deeper, even that fact was in question, so I wasn’t too far off the mark after all.

History is fascinating – and often funny – isn’t it? And so is the future.

When the actor who played Steve on “Blue’s Clues” left the show, he seemed to have fallen off the face of the Earth. Today I read that  a newly-discovered aurora borealis has been given the unlikely moniker, “Steve.” Coincidence? Perhaps. Now, I’m not suggesting that this light formation is actually Steve Burns in deep disguise, but let’s just say, I’ve never seen them in the same room together. 🤔

It’s one of life’s great joys to be able to laugh about silly things and spin a yarn. But when it comes to forgiveness, we may find it hard to let go and laugh things off. It’s as important to forgive ourselves as to forgive others.

If Bill is the past and Steve is the future, we could look upon them both more kindly. We might feel the same way about ourselves as we look back with regret, or look ahead with uncertainty. That’s the yester-you, and she did her best at the time. And that’s the you-to-come. She’ll do her best as well.

Be good to yourself and it’s a breeze to be good to others. There’s a word for that, isn’t there? Oh, yeah. Love.

“Find a need and fill it.”  I don’t know what Ruth Stafford Peale had in mind when she said this.  But I’ve been sitting here thinking about some of the needs I see in our world today.

Kindness and respect.

The other day my niece was telling us about two of her team mates being pulled off the field by their coach.  They hadn’t fouled a member of the other team.  They didn’t sass the ref.  They were arguing with each other about which position one of them was supposed to be playing.

Kindness and respected could easily have led the disagreement in another direction.

When my son offered to take a repair over at church, I watched the head of the building committee.  You would have thought someone had handed him $10,000.  The irony?  Lately he’s gotten a reputation for being an argumentative bully.  Now I’m wondering how stressed he is dealing with the bathroom sinks, the leaky roof, the gutter, etc.

 

Kindness and respect.  It can make a difference.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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