A few months ago, I did the most courageous thing a person can do. I got in the passenger seat of my own car and let my teenage son drive me… around… like on streets… with street lights and people. It was frightening. Not particularly because he sucks at it, more that it’s just scary. I mean, think about it, there isn’t a great “in between” practice ground for learning to drive. One day you are circling a parking lot practicing how to move a steering wheel and the next day you are on a street going 35 mph with buses and pedestrians and people texting who forgot they are supposed to be driving. And your kid, who like most kids, forgets his school lunch and doesn’t brush his teeth unless begged is now responsible for your life. Seriously, he could kill you. Just how much scarier can it get?
So Aidan and I were driving and on his first day on a real road, this nasty human started tailing him obnoxiously. Aidan wanted to start speeding up to get the guy off his tail but that was when I started preaching some lame sermon about not letting other people pressure you into making stupid decisions. Well as soon as the road turned from a one lane to to a two lane road, this guy passed us yelling out his window at my son “Yoooooouuuuuuuu iiiiidiotttttttt!” Aidan and I were so flustered. I wanted to go all mama bear, jump out of my car and yell “Do you remember the first time you drove a car? It’s my kids first day driving! You know who the idiot is?! You’re the idiot!”
That guy is lucky I haven’t seen him since.
This experience in the car was with a man who told himself one story (that we were idiot drivers), who had no compassion, and who didn’t entertain the idea that perhaps something else was going on beside idiocracy. This man just decided to go off on us, yelling full of road rage, pressuring a new driver to speed up and was a complete jerk about it. Not cool at all.
I am running into this kind of jerk move on the daily lately. It’s almost like every day I hear another story of someone being absolutely rude, insensitive and callused in how they are treating a fellow human being- and it’s usually over the dumbest stuff. I am sure you have seen it too.
The other day my family went to a local neighborhood restaurant and the hostess walked us back to seat us at our table, which had dirty dishes all over it. She was so beside herself and felt horrible and kept apologizing obsessively about it. I said “It’s no problem! There are real problems in the world and this isn’t one of them.” She looked at me, floored, like no one all day has given her any grace. She even began to share how this perspective is not one that most customers ever have. People barely look up from their phones. They are quick to complain and demand. They expect perfection. They see someone who is a waitress and they act as though that person’s sole reason for existence is to serve them, but they don’t see a person whose life and story matter. They don’t see that maybe she is going through a severe break up or maybe her mom just got diagnosed with cancer or maybe she is failing her classes and the degree she is pursuing is her only ticket out of being a waitress.
I have a friend who pastors at a church and he was recently sharing about the comment cards they get from people. You would be amazed how mean people are to their pastors. It’s almost like people think pastors don’t have feelings or like they should be the punching bag for all of Christianity’s failures. Some woman just ripped into this church’s staff because the water bottles were not cold and the snacks sucked.
There are real problems in the world and that’s not one.
I hope this mantra starts to play out in your head when your waiter gets the wrong order and your painter paints the wrong color on your house and your kid spills the milk and your neighbor’s dog poops in your yard. There are real problems in the world. There are women sharing their sexual assault stories and not feeling heard nor protected. There are children being sex trafficked. Did you read that last sentence? There are children being sex trafficked. There are people at war and people groups being killed simply for the color of their skin and the heritage of their people. There are kids wanting to end their lives and heroin is ending it for way too many of them. I could go on and on and on…
There are real problems in the world so when you face an inconvenience, a dirty table, a slow driver, or a warm glass of water, I sure as heck hope that you remind yourself this to be true.
Kindness is the new cool and if you have lost the art of being kind, I am asking you to revisit its importance. I’m reminding you to wear it, teach it to your kids and expect it of yourself. Kindness is almost antiquated. It’s missing from the recess playgrounds. The mean girls in middle school sold it for something called “advantaging themselves at the disadvantage of others.” Kindness is missing when we evaluate people critically forgetting they are trying their best. Kindness has even been let go of in our marriages when we let go of years and years of unmet expectations. Kindness is something our hurried, discontent culture has traded in for what we want, when we want it, how we want it, where we want it.
In Scripture when you read about kindness, it almost has a karma vibe. It is often talked about as something you will experience when you extend it. God’s loving kindness towards us is something we ought to show to others. And we see over and over again in the Bible that kindness is talked about as something that will be shown to you because you showed it to others. That makes me think that kindness can be taught and it can be caught. We can emulate kindness. We can expect it from our kids and curb its enemies at every turn. Kindness is something that, when we show it, has the great ability to travel. When I am kind to a new driver, he is kind to his waitress and she is kind to the man at table 12, who happens to be a pastor, who will be kind to the lady who writes awful complaints about the stupidest of things insulting him week after week. And maybe some day that kindness will break in and change her. Maybe some day kindness shown to her will break down her bitter, angry, callused heart.
All I really know is that kindness goes with you where you go. It catches up to you. It’s like a boomerang and it comes back to you. I see that in Scripture and I see it in life. So take it with you wherever you travel.
When you are kind, you are cool. Be more kind. Kindness trusts that there is more going on in the story than you can see on the surface. Kindness believes every human being should be respected and dignified. Kindness operates from a place of love and grace. Kindness gives people 2nd and 3rd chances because we have needed them ourselves. Kindness waves with a smile at slow drivers because it compassionately remembers our first day driving years ago. Kindness doesn’t expect pastors to be perfect because neither are we. Kindness waits for a clean table because kindness has wiped so many dirty tables for other people that kindness “gets” it.
Kind is the new cool and there are real problems in the world, people. Live as though it be true.