Be Kind? Oh, Bother!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pooh, Eeyore and Christopher Robin - illustration by Ernest Shepard

Pooh, Eeyore and Christopher Robin – illustration by Ernest Shepard

Eeyore - Stained glass from Delphi Glass

Eeyore – Stained glass
from Delphi Glass

Be Kind? Oh, Bother!

I felt more than a little like Eeyore today. I did not feel one hundred percent healthy, so right off the bat I was dealing with a body that was in slow motion. A few aches and pains, and a slight headache. Yes, I still have the cold my son so generously shared with me. So yes, I had a ways to climb just to get to my normal starting point for the day.

It’s not that terrible things habitually happen to me, but I found today I was more pessimistic than usual. (Oh, bother!) It’s not that the world is a rotten place, or that it’s always raining when I go outside. No, I know that’s not the case. But today, it seemed that I had to run extra hard just to keep up. Bob and tread water just a little faster just to stay on top of the water.

The administrative assistant at work was so helpful today! Sunny got some things ready for Saturday, when I am going to have a Blessing of the Animals. I really appreciate teamwork. I’ll be picking up the animal treats from the large pet supply store near the church, tomorrow afternoon. And, I was able to get some bottled water for the pets’ families, too. I am looking forward to a great morning on Saturday!

But meanwhile, I still need to get through this common, garden-variety cold. And I still feel like Eeyore. It isn’t that I think happiness is out of reach, somehow, but happiness seems further away when I’m not feeling well. Even though the weather outside is beautiful and sunny. I’m reminded of one of the workers at the nail salon this afternoon. (Yes, I did get my nails polished. I do, periodically. Just a basic manicure, with some neutral polish.)

This worker was really an Eeyore, if ever I saw one! Sad, downhearted, mouth in a straight line. She did not make eye contact with anyone. Hardly said a word all the time I was there. I don’t like to compare myself to anyone, but I was only an Eeyore-wannabe, compared to her!

Something inside of me wanted to connect with her. I was friendly, I talked a bit. I smiled at her, complimented her. Nope. (At least she did a lovely job on my nails.)

I didn’t think about it until afterwards, but she might habitually be like that. Always thinking the world is grim, always pessimistic. It is sad to think that—for some people—they might think that happiness is something just out of reach. God, I am so glad that I know that You are right by my side! And when I take the opportunity to be kind, to smile and be helpful? It helps so much for me to connect to people! Or, at least to try to connect. That gets me out of my own pessimism. Out of my own head, and makes me available to serve! To offer to help, to be kind. Even when I do feel like Eeyore!

@chaplaineliza

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Of Piano Playing and Being Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, January 5, 2014

piano lady

Of Piano Playing and Being Kind

I received a call last night. A pianist was unable to show up for two worship services this morning. I was asked whether I would be able to substitute at the last minute. Of course! I said. I’ve been at both of these retirement homes in Chicago a number of times, just not under these last-minute-circumstances.

Sometimes I preach and lead worship, more recently I’ve also played the piano, and a few times I’ve played both roles. So when I walked into the chapel at the first home, I knew all of the dear seniors present. I spoke to a few on my way to the piano. Because of snow and ice on the roads (as well as on my car), I came just two or three minutes before the service was to start. I played through two hymns as a prelude. After the service, I played a number of hymns as a postlude. Familiar hymns. Since I’ve been preaching, leading worship and playing for services at retirement homes over the past number of years, I know which hymns are more likely to elicit sighs and nods of recognition, and even seniors singing the words along with my playing. Thus it was with my postlude. One dear senior (mid-eighties? late eighties?) still has a very nice-sounding voice, and a marvelous memory for the words of many, many hymns.  As I played, I smiled as I listened to one, two, then three seniors singing the words of the hymns.

After almost ten minutes of playing the postlude, I rose from the piano bench to get ready to leave. I noticed that fully half of the seniors gathered there for the service had remained. They were listening to me, playing the piano. I stopped for a moment, realizing why they were still there. It was then that I heard the thanks. Sincere thank yous and gratitude coming from several of these dear seniors.

I quickly slogged several miles through the snow to the second retirement home, where this worship service was repeated. Again, the piano playing. The hymn singing was not quite as strong, but equally heartfelt. And after the worship, I again played a number of hymns for the postlude.

I wonder if this piano playing was the most important thing I’ve done all week, in God’s eyes? And afterwards, to have several of these dear seniors say ‘thank you’ with such sincerity and gratitude? I know many in this youth-oriented (even youth-worshipping) culture do not put much stock in their seniors. Many thoughtless or uncaring people today consider them to be not-as-important. Even forgettable.  The descriptive word to reference them is no longer ‘elders’ but ‘seniors.’ This telling change in vocabulary begins to show the shift in thinking.

Thank God that I was available and able to play the piano at a moment’s notice. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had this revelation. What a way for me to be kind and tenderhearted, as Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus. Please, God, show me how to be kind and tenderhearted tomorrow, too.

@chaplaineliza