Yes, there is a way to make this world kinder ... all those in favor of this project, begin with yourselves! That's right, there has to be a new starting point, and if you're not a kind person, those around you will be put off. But if you do give out kind vibes, that rubs off on the next person you meet, right? Is that your experience too?
"Well, there is nothing to smile about!" The economy stinks, friends can't find jobs, everything is more expensive than it was last month, the rent is going up, my spouse is sick, I'm a nervous wreck, what's there to be kind about? - All valid questions and concerns to be sure, but you can still be kind to others.
I was thinking about this the other day, as I began to realize what a blessing my friends and neighbors were - and their kindness was outstanding. The other night as I looked at the fridge, and there wasn't much to be had, there was a knock on the door - one of my neighbors brought me enough food for the next four days. Praise God! God provided as He said He would!
Kindness is charity, compassion and friendship for its own sake. Empathy and trust without prejudice or resentment. Unselfish love and voluntary kindness without bias or spite. Having positive outlooks and cheerful demeanor; to inspire kindness in others. One of your neighbors is looking sad, not smiling, on the verge of crying, you can see it in his or her face - be especially kind to him/her, ask what the problem is, how you can help? Many people have no one to talk to, and so the problems they experience grow exponentially as time wears on. Your effort to be kind to her (or him), to lend a willing ear, is often enough to change that person from sadness to joy!
A "kinder" world is one where people are not strangers to one another. Where people care for each other. Where people like you and me take an interest in others. The medium or method is conversation and/or facial expression. If you try to engage someone in conversation, make it a witty comment, not a mocking comment, but start a conversation. Yesterday I saw an elderly guy in the supermarket, and he had a bandage on his leg and a look on his face like it was the end of the world. Maybe for him it was. I wanted to be kind but it just didn't happen, I said nothing to him and walked by. But I was thinking this morning, as I said a quick prayer for him, that I passed him up, a lost opportunity to be kind.
Sometimes people are just not receptive to being talked to, especially by strangers. They are in a world of their own, and probably wouldn't even listen if they were spoken to. So most of the time, I wait till we make eye contact, or someone says something to me. So in the same market, looking at a piece of cheese perhaps, one of those one pound blocks, I couldn't help myself and exclaimed "Highway robbery" (Price $6.86 or something like that) - And a voice next to me rang out in agreement. When you live on Social Security and nothing else, 6.86 is a lot of money! A working person, making a couple of thousand a month wouldn't make this distinction.
When one gets older all sorts of medical problems crop up. There are a number of things I cannot digest anymore, one of these is ice cream, which my "GI system" no longer tolerates. Apart from which all that fat and sugar is no good for me anyway. But ice-cream was relatively cheap, whereas the cheese I now substitute for a snack is more expensive. And so it goes. Older people feel the pressures in their life just as much as the working crowd who have their own pressures and problems, associated perhaps with long travel to work, crowded roads, the need to rush and hurry, and the fact that often their income has to feed many stomachs! And they are always hungry, spouses, children, cats, dogs, etc. (Sometimes parents and grandparents, too).
I was an active member of that working crowd for 42+ years in places where the pressure from driving and other means of transportation was really bad: New York. I lived in Queens County, and I subway'ed to NYC each and every day for years. And in the old days, the subway cars were filthier, smellier, and more crowded each year! Standing next to a person who had eaten a copious amount of garlic in the previous meal was like standing in a gas chamber! It used to give me instant heatburn! So glad the subway experience is behind me. Driving in NYC for 25 years, or for that matter in Boston and some of the other places I have driven had its own tensions, and driving through the Palm Beaches in Florida on I-95 during the rush hour is also a challenge. Those are distinctly unkind moments. But we do not always have the wherewithal to change our job locations to look for a kinder environment.
If this world were kinder, better disposed to one another, all these pressures in life would certainly be easier to bear. It does not help that every day we hear of crime, politicians who are stealing us blind, basically, who are living high on the hog while the rest of us grovel, and even the leaders of this Nation who just do not seem concerned with our concerns, but live in a fantasy world - that's what it looks like to me. The more talk goes on, the less I care about the 2012 elections, but after the primaries are over and they are all finished asserting themselves just to make this grade, then I will get interested again who is left, and my choice will be a pro-life candidate, and in that I am unshakable. Some people tell me, you have to choose the best candidate, never mind how he or she feels about the sacredness of life. No, I will worry about the Sacred-ness of life. That is important. That is kind. That is what Jesus wants me to do.
There have been rumors that a certain Internet facility has allowed someone who said a very negative thing about Jesus to prevail. I do not get excited about that stuff, even though I do not like calling Jesus names. I love Him. It is too bad that there are others who do not. I think applying coarse language in the description of God, Jesus, and other Scriptural and Pastoral figures is immature and, well, appaling. I do understand that for certain people, Jesus has no meaning. That is their right, but let's be a little kinder ... let's at least recognize that Jesus is a religious figure, who has deep meaning to other people, to Catholics, to Christians, who love Him and see Him as the Son of God - those who do not see it that way, should respect the views of many rather than make coarse and vulgar comments about One who is so loved.
Many of us are so miserable and feel so low every day. You're just waiting to hear a kind remark directed at you ... so reciprocate ... do likewise. When someone smiles at you, SMILE BACK!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
December 3, 2011