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Posts Tagged ‘Kindness’

How would you complete this statement?

 

“____________________ is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

 

Possibilities might include:

A. Financial assistance

B. A thoughtful, meaningful present

C. A favor or kind deed

D.Attention

According to a speaker I heard on the radio, the answer is D.  He was evidently quoting Christian author and activist for the poor, Simone Weil (1909-1943):

 

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Attention is a rare form of generosity, because it involves time and effort—both of which are precious commodities.

But every now and then, all of us need someone to focus her eyes on ours, listen to our words with mental concentration, and respond appropriately–even pick up on our facial expressions and tone of voice.

 

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That’s often the exception, however, not the norm. Who has not tried to share a deep, heartfelt concern, only to have the listener look away at a slight distraction or steal a glance at her phone, then fail to react appropriately because she wasn’t tuned in to the story? Worse yet is when she interrupts with her own story, her own agenda.

I don’t want to be that distracted person. I’d like to follow my brother’s example. John has always been one to give up the precious commodity of time for others.

During our growing up years, we lived next door to a family with five children. Tragedy struck one afternoon when the father fell while repairing their roof.   He hit his head on the concrete driveway and never regained consciousness. The next day he was gone.

Though John was at least seven or eight years older than three of those neighbor boys, he would play ball with them now and again, giving them a bit of attention, which they surely needed.

One time when Fred, the third oldest child, came to our door and asked, “Can John come out to play?” we had to laugh. (Not in front of Fred, of course.) At the time, John was in his early twenties, serving in the Air Force and home on leave! But he did go out to play.

 

A silhouette of a father and his young child playing baseball outside, isolated against the sunsetting sky on a summer day.

 

I’d also like to follow the example of Dixie, the choir director of one of the churches where my husband served as pastor. She perfectly demonstrated how to live out Philippians 2:4 (NIV): “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (1).

Dixie always stayed focused on the persons sharing with her. She was responsive, without saying too much, letting the speakers know they were being heard and understood.

Great satisfaction can result from providing the gift of attention to another. But that’s not the only blessing.

  • We gain a better understanding of life while listening to the experiences of others. “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2 NIV).
  • Our own relationships can be strengthened as we learn from the examples of those who share with us.
  • Worthwhile ideas are discovered—ideas we may never have thought of on our own.
  • When we’re kind to the needy, we honor God (Proverbs 14:31b).

 

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Lord, I don’t want to be wrapped up in my own agenda. I’d much rather be like my brother, John—generous with my time and communicating encouragement through my attentive presence. Help me also to be an attentive listener like Dixie. Remind me, Father, to slow down, embrace the moment and genuinely interact with those around me.

 

  1. Note to self: Concern for self is not wrong as long as true compassion for others balances the scale of my attention.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

 

Who has provided the rare gift of attention for you?  What did you appreciate most about that gift?  Please share your story in the Comments section below!

 

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A friend and I enjoyed a bit of clearance shopping last week.  As she gleaned one rack, I gleaned another.  It was while scooting hangers left to right that a sweater fell to the floor. I bent over to pick it up and my sunglasses fell from their perch on my head. Quick as a wink, though, a nearby shopper (not my friend) retrieved them.

“Wow!” I exclaimed, taking back the sunglasses. “That has to be the fastest ‘pay it forward’ in history! Thank you!”

With a big smile for me, she returned to her shopping.

What a contrast to other shopping experiences, when someone has:

  • Bumped past me with her cart without an “Excuse me.”
  • Sauntered with two or three others down the middle of the parking lot lane, oblivious to the fact they’re holding up traffic.
  • Walked through a door I have held open without saying, “Thank you.”

Common courtesy seems to be disappearing from society, as some people have allowed the constant pursuit of self-interests to turn into self-absorption. Perhaps they think worrying about other people’s feelings is a waste of time and energy.   Others may see customs of politeness as downright archaic and puritanical.

The truth is, courtesy and consideration can do us a world of good. Research indicates that kind deeds release feel-good endorphins into our nervous systems. Benefits include diminished pain, decreased depression, and relieved stress. (1).

Of course, the Bible has taught the value of kindness all along (2).

 

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Yet some folks cringe at the thought of teaching scriptural principles to our children in school or holding ourselves to those standards. “Legalistic!” they claim.

But would it be so horrible if we:

  • Cheerfully greeted one another, even if we’re strangers?
  • Allowed others to enter a building or aisle first?
  • Held doors for one another?
  • Treated service personnel (clerks, wait staff, attendants, etc.) with friendly respect?
  • Said “thank you” at every opportunity?
  • Followed the Golden Rule that Jesus taught (Matthew 7:12)?

 

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Good manners are based on good principles; good principles are found throughout the Bible.

And Biblical principles not only provide positive impact on people (and our own nervous systems!), but may very well form the foundation of a strong nation:

 

“Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws

will secure the liberty and happiness of a people

whose manners are universally corrupt.”

–American statesman, Samuel Adams (1722-1803)

 

So…

 

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Oh, Lord, help me leave footprints of kindness wherever I go, to live out your Golden Rule for the benefit of others and for the praise of your glory.  May others know I’m a Christian by the cross I wear and the love I share.

 

(1) Allan Luks, The Healing Power of Doing Good (2001).

(2) Examples include: Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 4:32, and 1 Peter 2:17.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.allthingstarget.com; http://www.etsy.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.askideas.com.)

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With quick steps I entered T.J. Maxx.  Mustn’t waste a minute in December.  Too much to do, right?

First order of business:  get a cart.  The first one I grabbed was stuck to another.  Couldn’t get them apart.

Just as I reached for one in the second row, a cheery woman with sparkling eyes approached from the side, ready to return her cart.   “Here,”  she said. “Take mine.”

“Thank you very much!”  I replied.  As she turned the cart to face me, I couldn’t help but notice how smoothly it made the circle.  “Wow!  No wobbly wheels or squeaks!”

I tested the cart myself, turning it one way and then another.  This was the Cadillac of carts.  Very fluid and responsive.   Quiet.

Mrs. Lovely Lady chuckled a bit at my excitement.  “Yes, it’s a great cart.  I really hate to leave it,” she added wistfully.

Now I was chuckling.  “You are very kind to pass it on to me.”

“Well, pay it forward,” she called and headed to the exit.

That little episode got me to thinking.  Mrs. Lovely Lady had paid forward to me much more than a kind deed.  She also gave:

  • the gift of good cheer and laughter
  • A friendly moment of camaraderie, in spite of the fact we were strangers to one another
  • A large serving of the fruit of the Spirit – his love, joy, kindness, and goodness

As a result, I felt incredibly refreshed and invigorated.  Just that brief encounter made a huge difference in the condition of my spirit.

And I pray that kind woman who passed on her cart experienced the same uplift.

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Lord, help me to pay forward many kindnesses during this Christmas season, and beyond into 2014.  May I reflect you – your love, joy, kindness, and goodness—with plenty of good humor!  And one more thing, Father.  I don’t know who that woman was in T. J. Maxx, but you do.  (Such a fantastic truth—your omniscience!!)  Would you bestow a special blessing upon that lovely lady, for her delightful demeanor and thoughtfulness?  Thank you, Father!

(photo credits:  www.marketplace.org; http://www.unfadingelegance.blogspot.com.)

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On Monday I introduced you to six bloggers I follow—out of the 200-plus million blogs on the internet.  Today I’d like you to meet the other seven of my baker’s dozen.  (This post grew a bit long; you may wish to break it up and read it over several days.)

My PhotoThree Way Light (www.threewaylight.blogspot.com) is hosted by Jody Collins, a teacher of the Seattle, WA area.  She often accompanies her rich text with equally rich images of her own photography.

On Monday, Jody wrote:  “I am weak and broken and needy and healed and failing and falling and healed and over and over it goes. Jesus continues to peel off the layers of my shell of protection so He can get to the parts of me that need His touch.”

Did that last line speak to you as it did me?  Jody never fails to give me food for thought and sustenance for my spirit.

A Devoted Life (www.boyslumber.wordpress.com) offers “Practical Daily Devotions for the Real World” from JD Blom—Familyhusband, father, pastor, and athlete.

Recently JD used mountain-climbing as a visual image of the Christian life.  We’re created to climb, he said, to take on the challenge for the glory of God.  Jesus makes ascension possible.  However, Jesus did not come to…

…remove the difficulty of the route.
…eliminate the hurdles.
…chisel an escalator into impenetrable holiness.
…lower the glory of God down to the realm of man.
…diminish the elevation of righteousness for the unrighteous.

“Jesus came to create supernatural climbers.  We are new creatures in Christ.  IN Christ, we are supernatural climbing freaks.”

I like that image of supernatural climbing freaks–passionate, persevering, focused freaks.  YEAH!

Redemption’s Beauty (www.redemptionsbeauty.com) has blossomed from a child of divorce and alcoholism.  God redeemed Shelly Miller, and she is now a clergy wife raising two teens.

Two of Shelly’s outstanding attributes are honesty and humility, strongly apparent on October 11th, when she wrote:

”I’ve turned joyfulness into legalism, allowing it only in instances of the extraordinary and the accolades of good fortune. I don’t fit into the rules I create for it. I’m not extraordinary enough to be the object of attention, someone’s artistic gift.

Which I know in my head, isn’t the truth.”

A bit later she quoted Brene Brown, from The Gifts of Imperfection:

“Joy isn’t an unreachable standard, a goal attached to a list of rules to follow. Jesus chose us, not because of our extraordinariness, but because His extraordinary life lives in us.”

See?  From the pedestal of her vulnerability, Shelly shares heart-touching wisdom.  It happens often.

Strength Renewed  (www.strenthrenewed.wordpress.com) is not only the title of Tresa Walker’s blog, but states the objective as well:  that her thoughts might renew our strength for the circumstances we face.

One afternoon, this teacher/writer, and mother of two grown children, suddenly remembered she needed cupcakes for a gathering—in two hours.  No quick trip to the store would solve the problem–the local grocery was closed.  And no cake mixes sat perched on the pantry shelves either.  If Tresa was going to keep her promise, the cupcakes would have to be made from scratch.

She began searching for the ingredients.  Shortening?  The can held precisely the ½ cup required.  Baking powder?  Just enough.  Eggs?  The exact number needed.

Tresa recognized a life-lesson in her experience.  God sometimes provides exactly what we need rather than what we want.

She says, “Maybe when it seems our needs aren’t being met, it’s because God is giving us the opportunity to trust Him to provide the things that we truly need.”

She has me thinking.

DSCF4687Wings of the Dawn (www.heidiviars.wordpress.com) includes poetry and prose by Heidi Viars.  She is gifted at both, as well as photography.

Recently she included breath-taking shots of sunbeams casting ethereal ribbons among tall trees.  She wrote about turning around during a walk recently and discovering sunbeams had been lighting up the road behind her.

Heidi’s insight:  “Even when we can’t see Him work, we can trust Him to do His work in and through us. Sometimes it’s not until later, when we get a chance to turn around, that He reveals to us that He has been the Light on our path all along.”

My heart responds, “Oh, yes, Heidi.  And surely such moments are glimpses of His ethereal glory– just like those sunbeams!

Horizons of the Possible (www.horizonsofthepossible.wordpress.com) is hosted by Russell Smith, pastor of the church where our older son and daughter-in-law attend.

On October 8th, he wrote on the topic “People Are Not Projects.”

“We see the powerful, the accomplished, the athletic, and the beautiful and we easily see glory about them,” Russell says.  “What about all the rest – the misfits, the oddballs and the awkward?  What about the weak and the needy and the not-quite-right?  Unfortunately, we tend to think of them as projects to be worked upon.  Or we see them as objects of charity who need our help, but have little to give us.”

Then Russell reminds us of Psalm 8:5.  “You made [human beings] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”

Every person has great worth, because he/she bears the stamp of Creator God.  He values each one; we can do no less.

(in)courage (www.incourage.me) is a team effort, sponsored by Dayspring.  Twenty-eight women contribute one post per month.  Lisa Leonard recently wrote “Showing Myself a Little Kindness.”

Her car was dead, probably because she had left the lights on the night before.  After all, she had been exhausted.  But instead of treating herself with kindness and understanding (as she would if the situation had happened to a friend), Lisa berated herself and even called herself names!

While waiting for AAA, however, Lisa was treated to a glorious sunrise.  And she noted:

“…how imperfect life is, and how there is still beauty to be found. I am flawed and yet, I can show myself kindness. I make mistakes, but there is forgiveness.”

Lisa is right.  My spirit breathes in deep her statement:  “I can be kind and forgiving of myself.”  And with that realization comes peace.

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Thank you, Father, for inspiring these writers.  I delight in their giftedness and insights!  Thank you that day after day they minister life lessons and encouragement to me and many others.  Bless them, I pray, with your favor and protection, and with your joy and peace.  In the name of Jesus, Amen.    

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