There’s nothing like a campaign season to remind us of the worst of humanity. It’s not unusual to catch a bit of a stump speech and think, is that person part of the same human race that I am?
What’s happened to us that we’ve become such a people of hate? What’s happened to us that we live in such fear and hatred instead of love and kindness toward each other? And I start to wonder, further … when did it become so unusual to be kind and decent toward one another? I mean, the simple act of smiling at someone you don’t know almost seems old-fashioned and ridiculous these days, doesn’t it? When did that happen?
It’s times like these that I find myself doubling down on kindness. It’s my instinctual response to hate; my way of reminding myself that the little choices we make all day long are stabs back at the darkness.
I’m reminded of a good friend whose wife, when my friend would start to get in a big huffy hurry to get out of the house, would intentionally slow down. Her slowness boldly challenged his hurry, and usually forced him to surrender. Now, I’m not so naive to think that my small acts of kindness, combined with yours, will fell the haters of the world … oh wait, yes I am. I am that naive. I think it comes with the faith territory.
When hate is raging, intentionally bring the light. Remember what it means to be a human being. Here are some very, very simple ideas for increasing the light and reminding ourselves each day that we’re human again. (Bonus aside: watch how kindness has a crazy way of transforming the energy around you, healing others, and going freaky viral (google “Starbucks chain of kindness.”))
1. Say hello to someone in the elevator. You might even wish them a good morning. (I know, crazy, right?)
2. Open a door for someone who has their arms full.
3. Pull your elderly neighbor’s trash cans in for them on trash day.
4. Compliment a co-worker on a project or a good idea.
5. Thank your waiter, or the person who bags your groceries, or your kid’s teacher. When you thank them, look them in the eyes and mean it.
6. Give someone a hug (check out the research on the healing power of hugs).
7. Let someone into your lane on the freeway. (Just do it already, as a rebellious act of kindness!)
8. Buy a big box of granola bars and hand them out as you drive past the beleagured souls on street corners.
9. Attend a church service in another part of town with people who don’t look like you.
10. Get someone a drink of water (that’s from Anne Lamott).
11. Read a poem by David Whyte, or Mary Oliver, or Maya Angelou, or the Persian mystic Hafiz. (This is more for you than anyone else, but you know what they say — when one person finds inner peace, thousands around them are saved.*)
12. Apologize to someone you were short with yesterday.
13. End your day by looking back over the last 24 hours and noticing where you felt most connected to yourself, others, and the world. Give thanks for the big and small moments of connection, of kindness, of decency you showed or received this day.
Simple, right? That same good friend with the ‘slow’ wife also told me once that Christianity is really quite simple — we’re just supposed to love each other. That’s it! So simple, he said with a smile, and yet oh-so-hard to practice.
Let’s stack the deck in favor of kindness versus hatred. It’s time to double down and bet big on the power of small gestures of love, practiced intentionally and in increasingly regular intervals, to win the game.
*St. Seraphim of Sarov said it first.
Deborah Arca is the Director of Content at Patheos.com. She joined the Patheos team in 2009 after serving as the Program Manager for the Programs in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah belongs to a progressive United Church of Christ Church in Englewood, Colo. She is also the managing editor of the Progressive Christian Channel and Book Club at Patheos.
More from Patheos:
- Hold On Until Love Wins
- A Call for Christians to Act Like They’re Christians
- What Is the Path to Human Freedom? (Hint: It’s Not What You Think It Is)
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