I looked around the room at the 12 brave young people who had shown up for a field trip to the local community college. Occasionally in my work as a high-school substitute teacher, I am assigned the special education “Transitional Academy” for students who are no longer in high school but have been mandated an education until they are 21. This is special life and vocational training on how to integrate into the world. Today we will visit and eat lunch at a nearby college.
I sigh as I remember my eldest son tackling all these issues only a few years ago. When you are labeled as “different” in any way it takes courage to show up and explore new life options—like dreams of higher education.
As the students filed in from their buses, I glanced up at the wall to a large sign with a quote attributed to Henry James:
“Three things in human life are important:
The first is to Be Kind. The second is to Be Kind.
And the third is to Be Kind.”
I can only imagine the myriad times these students have been the brunt of unkindness. Whether an intentional mocking or someone just treating them as invisible, such things are hurtful. At the very least, they erode the confidence needed to be part of a world whose rules are constantly changing. And yet, as we load up for the field trip, I sense an excitement and, yes, courtesy to one another. Their kindness has already begun to affect me.
Perhaps we really could, after all, change the world with kindness.
I believe kindness is also at the heart of a soul-strong woman. It is the baseline for much deeper characteristics we are called to live—grace, mercy, and compassion.
We can choose each day—each moment really—to act kindly. To take the high road and not react with indignance, irritation, or impatience. Sadly, this choice to be kind is more often the exception than the rule these days.
Recently I had business at the Department of Motor Vehicles—an outing most people dread due to the incredibly long lines and bureaucratic red tape involved. When I arrived at the DMV, I was directed to a short line and relieved to be told my transaction would only take a moment. I noted my clerk was a seated man with crutches behind him. He seemed a bit rattled about the form I needed but consulted his notebook and printed it out as I handed over the payment in cash. However, his computer simply was not cooperating, even after we switched to a credit card. Everyone around him came to try and help. He was obviously embarrassed as this was his first week on the job.
As I stood helplessly at the counter, I became increasingly frustrated but made a deliberate choice to speak kindly both with my words and my body language. After a long 30 minutes, two women from the upstairs office came down and fixed the computer problem. The incredibly relieved new clerk gave me my form and I smiled and thanked him, “You’re doing great! Remember, we’ve all had a first week at a new job.”
That is when I realized that my behavior had been noted. The other men at that desk kept apologizing and saying how patient I was being. Me, patient? Only I knew how clearly my actions resulted from a deliberate choice, rather than my default. And yet as the officer thanked me for being a nice lady, I said in my goodbye, “Life is too short not to be kind.”
Anyone can be kind! According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” And kindness opens doors for others to receive virtues like grace, mercy, and compassion.
Be assured that such acts are noticed. Not just by all the people standing around in a DMV line, but by those who live with you, those who follow your public persona, and strangers who happen to intersect with your life.
A few years ago, everyone was talking about doing “random acts of kindness” which is just a lovely idea deserving far more than a passing fad glance. One hundred years before that a Scottish clergyman, John Watson who also wrote novels under the pen name Ian MacLauren, offered this mandate: “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Do you believe that we are not only surrounded by the wounded, but often we ourselves are the wounded? The arrows of judgment, rejection, loneliness, and hopelessness rain down regularly on the average person. So much so that it can seem we are in a battle to just keep going. And yet we rarely know the burdens others carry. Perhaps a bit of kindness could help lift someone’s spirit even if we cannot totally offload their burden.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another.” Ephesians 4.32
What is one act of kindness you can deliberately choose to do this week for these people?
That person living with you___________________________________________________
That child depending on you_________________________________________________
That colleague threatened by you ______________________________________________
That clerk at the long check-out line ____________________________________________
That voice at the other end of the phone who has kept you waiting ________________
That friend who needs you, perhaps too much _____________________________________
That elderly neighbor _________________________________________________________
That visitor to your church or Bible study _________________________________________
That relative who doesn’t understand____________________________________________
That friend who received a devastating diagnosis ___________________________________
That discouraged student _______________________________________________________
That exhausted young mama ____________________________________________________
That homeless person with a sign on the street ______________________________________
That person in your mirror _____________________________________________________
Did you answer that last one? Yes, do not forget to be kind to yourself as well. Here are kind words I say to myself when suddenly confronted with a challenge.
Lucinda’s Affirmation in Tough Times
“Sweetheart, this is hard. Breathe deeply. Remember how much
God loves you. This did not catch Him by surprise. Open your hands
to both release to Him and receive from Him. You are not alone.”
I’m an imperfect person who sometimes gets it all wrong. But when I make a deliberate decision to seek kindness, I know God strengthens me. “Your own glorious power makes us strong and because of your kindness, our strength increases.” Psalm 89.17 CEV And I, in turn, can strengthen others.