Friday, April 13, 2018

Why Not ‘Commonplace’ Acts of Kindness?

Post by: Sara Godwin

I’ve been pondering, for a while now, the phrase, “random acts of kindness”. For a lot of reasons this phrase bugs the heck out of me. What does it even mean? That kindness isn’t normal? That it isn’t something that one sees every day? Is kindness something that must be sought out, ever the elusive act that only some practice? Or if everyone practices it, they only do it sometimes? It’s the word ‘random’ that I really have a problem with. Is kindness truly that uncommon? The very definition of random, according to is “a person or place that is odd or unpredictable; without uniformity; unknown, unidentified or suspiciously out of place”. Hmmmm.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you know that our society is troubled. We see, almost every day, in our news, headlines, and social media all of the acts of rage, anger, hate, sickness, and sadness that has pervaded humankind. Children are committing suicide, we are taunting and bullying each other, some enter places of learning, worship, or commerce and inflict pain, terror, or even death upon others. We sit back after hearing about these acts and scratch our heads. We wonder why these things are happening. We ask for prayers, we rant on social media, we hug our loved ones close, but nothing every really changes. I think that perhaps, collectively, we just hope that it won’t happen to us. But it is. I don’t think any of us hasn’t been affected directly by at least one of these types of acts. They’re too common.

I’m not gonna lie; I have absolutely no idea what to do about all of this. I have no answers. I only know what I can do, as an educator and a parent and a human being in my own tiny, little sphere of breathing space on this planet. I can model and perform commonplace acts of kindness. I can smile at the cashier as I pay for my groceries, I can tip my waiter or waitress and voice my appreciation for their efforts, I can use my blinker and wait my turn to merge on the highway, I can hold the door for someone, I can thank others, no matter how small their act was, or, in other words, I can “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Luke 6:31 It’s right there; all of it, that one tiny verse, so commonly known to everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike.

I recently taught my students the Easter story. We started with Palm Sunday and progressed all the way to the ascension. One of the best lessons in that story happens in the middle, during the Last Supper and how Jesus washes the feet of his disciples to show his love for them. After I told my students that part of the story we filled buckets with water and washed each other’s feet. As we washed each other’s feet, we said kind things to each other. The kids said things like, “I like your hair”. Or, “you’re fun to play with”. Or, “you’re good at coloring”. Things that 5 year olds think are important. Yet, aren’t these things important to all of us? We all just want to know that we’re doing a good job, or that our efforts are noticed and appreciated. My students talked about this activity for days and continued to say kind things to each other, long after we were done. I hope that as they grow, they’ll think back on this activity and remember how it felt to give and receive kindness.

I’m not going to pretend that I have any answers to the ills that are affecting our society, but I can hope that my acts, my smile, my words, might have a ripple effect. Maybe if I smile at my cashier, they’ll smile at their next customer, who will then hold the door on their way out for someone, who will then go on to say thank you or I’m sorry to someone else, who will then go on to perform another act of kindness with another soul. I can model the very foundation of Jesus’ teachings to us and do unto others. It doesn’t answer everything, but it’s definitely a start. If we get enough ripples going, constantly, commonly, always moving outwards, maybe some things will change. Join me, won’t you?

Sara Godwin has been a member of BUMC since 2003. She is the Assistant Director and Teacher at Apple Tree Christian Preschool and Kindergarten where she has worked since 2007. She has two wonderful children, Rachel and Ian, a loving husband, Shawn, two awesome kitties, Lewis and Lucy, and a sweet dog, Minnie. She began at BUMC working in the Children’s Ministry, assisting with Sunday School before moving to the preschool. She also helps with Wacky Wednesday and is the self-described crazy lady who wears all sorts of costumes every year at VBS.

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