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How Can I Be Kind? Be Present for Others!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday morning - Monmouth College Fall retreat, 2005 - Painting Prayers

Saturday morning – Monmouth College Fall retreat, 2005 – Painting Prayers

How Can I Be Kind? Be Present for Others!

My family took a trip today to Michigan and back. Not particularly a nice day for travel, but we had a luncheon appointment planned for this particular day. We went to a fine restaurant in a small town in Michigan and met two older relatives for lunch. Comfortable eating place, wonderful view, excellent company. I think I can safely speak for us all if I say a fine time was had by all of us.

One of the relatives has done a good bit of (lay) work for the church, for a number of decades. I had the opportunity to seriously listen to him and glean some wisdom from him and his vast experience. What an opportunity! I was very glad I could do that. I could see that he felt good, sharing his expertise. And I? I was listening with both ears open—and pen in hand—taking down all the information I could.

On the way back to Chicago this afternoon, I reflected upon the serious discussion the two of us had over the coffee cups, after lunch. Since I’ve worked as a chaplain for most of the past ten years, I could say that I am also a professional-listener. I listen to people with several aural filters: first, spiritual. Since I often act as a chaplain, I have a primary focus on people’s spiritual orientation (and I don’t mean “religious!” but instead, spiritual, internal focus). Second, emotional. I am naturally intuitive and a feeling/perceptive person, so I can actively listen to individuals and their feeling/emotional orientation.

So, I used my active listening skills at lunch today. (It was automatic—they just sort-of switched on. I found myself in the middle of this significant conversation, and I felt my internal, active listening just being there. Fully operational.) Meanwhile, something was going on under the surface inside of my head while I was cogitating on this conversation. I also reflected on something I recently heard at a gathering of friends. A new acquaintance was speaking. She said quite a number of excellent things. However, what was the most significant thing I thought she said? The most important thing she could do for people besides showing up for them was being fully present with them. I truly appreciated that, and took that thought home with me. The zinger for me? I somehow connected the two trains of thought.

I guess I could say that I was fully present with my older relative today. I listened attentively to him after lunch, with appreciation for his wisdom and expertise. I guess I could also say I took the opportunity to be kind today. Actually, the act of service was a two-way gift this afternoon—both for my relative and for me. I think it is just superb how God sovereignly acts in disparate situations and ties them together in my mind—like at lunch today, and in my remembrance of this recent conversation. Awesome job, God! Thanks so much!

@chaplaineliza

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