Sunday, August 18, 2013

Making a Difference

Day by day, we move in and out of the lives of other people: family members, friends, coworkers, store clerks, cashiers, passersby, etc. Inevitably, we interact with these people, touching their lives and being touched by them.

On any given day, the people we encounter may be in the midst of a wonderful day, or far too often, they may be plowing through challenges or even adversity. As a result, the way they treat us can vary. The cashier at the convenience store who is terse and seemingly disinterested in us might be, indeed, thoughtless and unmotivated. But on the other hand, they might be preoccupied by mentally planning household management issues for their children, feeling the sting of an earlier rude customer, or experiencing any number of other reactions to any number of life challengers.

For someone wishing to make the world better, someone wishing to live fully and richly, the cause of someone's moodiness is irrelevant. Our call is, according to Jesus, to be salt and light to the world, to offer hope and encouragement--to preserve and to illuminate in a sometimes tainted and dark world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls this being the "visible community" of God to the world. At Visible Music College, we embrace this idea and attempt to infuse it into all our students who will graduate and go into "the real world" to serve.

Our response to this need not be complicated or involve grand initiatives. I recently quoted a tweet that quoted Aesop:
From @Inspire_Us:No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. -Aesop 
#LiveBetter Live so as to make the lives of others better.
Don't be discouraged by thinking it won't matter in the long run. It will matter immediately.

I have spent years being overtly friendly and pleasant to store clerks and cashiers. I have never done this and thought I had wasted my time. My prevailing memory is the look of pleased surprise to my simple "Hi, how are you doing today?" said with a smile and a look in their eyes. I cannot remember any cases ever of someone being unhappy with me for taking an extra few seconds to hold the door for them.

Kindness can be simple and easy. It can become something we do naturally without thinking. It should!

There is in theology a concept called human agency. In part, the idea is that God works in the world, now, through the acts and efforts of human beings empowered spiritually by God. If a good work is to be done in the world, it is to be done by the faithful. If kindness is to be shown, it will be shown by the faithful. 

While being the working agents of God's desires for the world need not involve grand initiatives, I would argue that the sum of an army of small gestures would have huge affect. If twenty people smile and offer a friendly greeting to a store clerk, the sum of those encounters would surely brighten the clerks mood.

Many people doing acts of kindness, no matter how small, will make a difference. The key is for each person to do something, knowing that whatever that something is, it is not wasted.

1 comment:

Phy said...

You've always been kind to me, Bill. I thank God for our friendship and for everything you've meant to me as a mentor, a brother, and a friend.