Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wednesday's Words for November 16, 2016

Be kind to one another.

If you watch daytime television—specifically, if you watch Ellen—these are words that are familiar to you. You may have caught a part of her show, or heard those words, and thought, “oh, what a nice sentiment”. And then you went back to whatever it was you were doing without another thought.

Be kind to one another.

Only five words, but if you let them sink in, if you let them permeate, they’re powerful, aren’t they? Now, some of you might wave them off, because I mentioned Ellen DeGeneres, a comedienne with a daytime talk show. I have to admit I don’t generally watch her show myself, although I have caught the odd episode, and seen the occasional YouTube clip. But then I don’t watch television in the daytime, period. I’m here, at my desk, in the daytime, half of the time writing, and half of the time pretending to write. If the day was longer, I might watch her show, because she has interesting guests, and she’s generous, not just to members of her audience, but also, and most usually to public schools and families of US military personnel, and worthy people in true need. So, in that way, I guess you could say she lives up to the words she uses at the end of every one of her shows.

Be kind to one another.

But what do those words mean, really? And, where did she get them, anyway? Here’s where my essay today might get a little sticky, but I won’t apologize for that. You see, those words are from the Bible. Ephesians 4:32, to be exact. And while I don’t usually do this, I’m going to write out that verse here, and I have a reason for doing it, so I hope you’ll allow me this indulgence and bear with me. The verse, as it appears in the New American Standard Bible: Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Here’s my reason for reproducing that quote, and I guess I’m directing this chiefly toward the self-righteous out there, especially in light of not only the storm of “unfriending” and hate-filled diatribe that I see taking place in social media in the last week, but also the hate-related attacks that have occurred in the United States since November 8th. I fear that some of you are certain you know those words already. I’m sorry, but no, some of you don’t know those words at all.

That is the entire verse, as I presented it, and looking at it, we can all agree it doesn’t say “be kind to one another but only if you’re of the same color”; it doesn’t say, “be kind to one another but only if you’re of the same political party”; it doesn’t say, “be kind to one another, but only if you go to the same church”; it doesn’t say, “ be kind to one another, but only if you’re of the same ethnicity”; it doesn’t say, “be kind to one another, but only if it’s convenient for you”.

No. It says, simply, beautifully, and in words that are all-encompassing and easy to understand: “be kind to one another”.

When is kindness warranted? Always, but especially if you see your fellow human being vulnerable, depressed, suffering, or in need. If you see kids being threatened with violence, women being abused, those of another religion scorned and beaten. We are called upon to be kind in all that we do, aren’t we? There should be no meanness and no striking out—if only because being mean and striking out brings no lasting peace to ourselves. Being kind costs nothing, mostly, except a moment of your time—a smile, a word of encouragement, letting someone go ahead of you in a line. It can be anything from simply offering a helping hand, to something more demanding, as in standing up for someone who is being treated badly, or bullied.

There are no prerequisites to the ability to offer kindness—because kindness is already within us to give. In fact, that is the only reason it’s within us. And oddly, the more we give, the more we have available for us to give. The more we give, the more we gain for ourselves. We gain a sense of having done something right, something worthwhile, something good. The truth is, we feel good when we do good. Always.

These are difficult times. People are hurting. Hearts are broken. Dreams have been dashed. People who once felt protected, now live in fear. Whether you believe these emotions are justified, or not, does not change the reality that this is what it is. Feelings are real to the one feeling them.

So please, I beg of you. Be kind to one another.


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