Learning to Be Kind

February 26, 2018

A couple weeks ago I was asked to teach a Sunday School class of nine and ten-year-olds.  I was a little worried, as this group of kids are pretty smart.  I knew these kids, but had never had much interaction with them.  I'm usually with the 12 and 13-year-old girls - some of this group's older sisters.  I am the first to admit I'm not one of those natural born teachers.  How was I going to keep them engaged and interested for 45 minutes?

When I walked into the classroom, their reaction to me as their teacher set the whole mood.  The excitement in their eyes, the clapping hands of delight, and - dare I say it - cheers of joy melted my heart and made me want to make this the best lesson ever.  All of us had a great time learning from each other.

How do we respond to others?  Do we make them feel that they really matter?  Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson cared for every player on his team.  When Grambling built a new stadium and named it after this great coach, they placed a huge marker at the entrance:  Robinson Stadium: Where Everybody is Somebody.

Have any of you watched Ann Curry's PBS show, We'll Meet Again? The first episode, entitled "Children of WWII" tells the story of a Japanese-American child who was sent with her family to an internment camp in Wyoming, where they stayed for the duration of the war.  At the time she was seven years old.  Now in her 80's, she remembers a childhood friend, a classmate, whose acts of kindness helped her cope.  This classmate would play with her when others wouldn't.  And when she finally returned to her home and school after the war, it was this same classmate that was the first to take her hand and welcome her back.  Out of all the horrific experiences of her life, she remembers that small act of kindness.

I'm reminded of the story of a four-year-old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.  Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the gentleman's yard, climbed upon his lap and just sat there.  When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."  A small act of kindness.

I'm kind of obsessed with the Olympics.  It's the "behind-the-scenes" stories that warm my heart. Watching this cross-section of humanity cheering each other on, recognizing that it's not only the strength of the legs, but the strength of the heart that matters, is beautiful to witness.

Do you remember the shirtless Tongan?  Pita Taufatofua is his name.  He was a cross-country skier in the 15km race.  He had two goals;  to not come in last and to not hit a tree.  Goals accomplished.  He finished 113 in a field of 115 skiers.  Pita had made friends with the skier from Chile, who finished 114, and the skier from Mexico who finished 115, dead last.  As the skier from Mexico crossed the finish line he was greeted by not only his new friends from Tonga and Chile, but also Dario Cologna of Switzerland, who had come in first and won the gold medal.  Cologna stood by the finish line for nearly 30 minutes after he finished the race to cheer on all the other 114 skiers that came in behind him - and was there to lift the Mexican skier on his shoulders at the end.  (And in case you were wondering, Yes, I was crying.)

In an effort to be kind, let's not forget to be kind to ourselves, too.  One of my friends, a young military wife, gave a talk in church last month. She said several years ago her mother told her she seemed to just tread water when her husband was deployed.  Her mother suggested that she needed to learn how to swim through life.  My friend developed the RICE diet.  She thought of things she liked to do for herself.  R=Reading; I=Indexing (which also serves others); C=Crocheting; and E=exercise. As Bailey would say, "We can't keep waiting for life to happen before we are happy."  Bailey also has a sign that says, "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."

Bailey and I have seen the movie Wonder, and decided to read the book this month.  Both are wonderful and I would encourage everyone to not only see the movie, but to read the book.  It demonstrates not only the nature of kindness, but the nature of one's kindness, the power of one's friendship, the test of one's courage, and the strength of one's courage.  

In the book, the principal was giving a speech to the students at the end of the year.  He said, "Courage.  Kindness.  Friendship. Character.  These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion , to greatness."  There is a quote in the book from Henry Ward Beecher that says, "Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength.  He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own."

I hope to be an example of kindness.  I want all to feel safe and comfortable around me.  I want to inspire others to be the best they can be, just as that Sunday School class made me want to be the best teacher.  And I plan to be kind to myself, too.  I'm on my way to get a pedicure - and if you've stayed with me through all this rambling, I invite you to join me.


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