The other day at work business was very slow and I was talking to Ashley, one of the waitresses. A single lady was leaving, having just eaten in Ashley’s section, and came up to Ashley and said, “Thank you for your kindness.” I was struck by the simple gesture. It’s not often you hear someone thank another for their kindness. I wonder, is that due to a lack of people behaving with kindness, or to a lack of recognition and appreciation of such behavior?
In my spirituality class our required text is Seven Masters, One Path by John Selby. This week we’re on the fourth master, reading about “Heart Awakening.” This fourth master is Jesus. Now, when I think about meditation, Jesus isn’t a name that comes to mind. When I think Jesus I think prayer, and I’ve never really thought of meditation and prayer in the same way. For meditation, Buddha and Lao Tzu always seemed more appropriate. Nonetheless, the connection made in this book is perfectly logical. However, this connection to meditation is not the topic at hand, so let’s move forward. Whether or not you believe Jesus existed or is the Son of God, the things He taught and the example He led by are for and apply to everyone. When you get to the core of it, He taught us about love.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
It sounds so simple. It should be simple. But so many hearts are so closed off to love that they aren’t able to show love to strangers, let alone love themselves. When I lived in Minnesota I smiled at everyone I passed by on the street. Years ago, my friend Cassey and I went with my sister to her work early in the morning (Starbucks at Barnes&Noble) but it wasn’t open yet, so we sat in the hall outside, smiled and said “Good morning” to everyone who passed by. Some responded in kind, others did not, but one man came back, gave us a $10 bill and said, “Everyone deserves a smile in the morning. Go buy yourselves some coffee.” Now, I’m not saying that you should do this in hopes for a reward. The free coffee was a pleasant perk, but it showed that some people do hold appreciation for such a small gesture. Then I moved to Chicago for school and the other day I realized how much I’ve changed in that way. This is a city where people keep to themselves. We wear sunglasses underground on the CTA so we won’t make eye contact with other people. And it’s normal because everyone does it. We hurry by the homeless because we don’t want to be bothered with their pleas or the mess of whether their problems are real or fabricated. I’ve started looking towards the ground when I walk. I’m not comparing places, maybe it’s the same in the Twin Cities, I’m just expressing that generally if there’s an opportunity for displaying kindness towards a stranger, few people take it. We’re all too caught up in our own world, our own problems, our own destinations. But you’d be amazed at what the smallest piece of kindness can do.
Jesus spent his time with lepers, with the homeless, with the tormented and rejected, with the sinners. I don’t know if we all just have this high and mighty attitude about ourselves and about life or if we’re just so focused inward…but whatever happened to compassion? Whatever happened to helping our fellow man? Whatever happened to living a life of love? Just think about what the world would be like if everyone opened their hearts, even just a little bit, to love and compassion. Both giving and receiving. Just think about it. No, not everyone will open their hearts. But that doesn’t mean you can’t.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
~ Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)