Being Kind, Crossing International Borders

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 13, 2015

I try to go to the YMCA several times a week. In this blog post, I mention a chance meeting on the stairs at the Y. See whether you can relate.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Walking with Friends" by Carolee Clark

“Walking with Friends”
by Carolee Clark

Being Kind, Crossing International Borders

Earlier today, I happened to stop on the stairs. I had an unexpected encounter with someone from another country, and I hope I was of service.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll give a little background, and set up the story. As is my habit during the week, I went to the gym to do some stretching and cardio exercise. I finished a good workout, and started down to the women’s locker room. Halfway down the stairs, I saw a young woman holding an open pamphlet, obviously reading intently. She looked puzzled, and frowned at the piece of paper. I slowed down, since she caught my attention. She glanced up.

We smiled at each other. And that’s all it took for her to engage me in conversation.

As it turned out, she held a pamphlet that listed information about GED classes. She trustingly started pouring out her story in accented but fairly good English. She wanted to take a GED course. And then, get her GED to be more prepared to get jobs here in the Chicago area. I encouraged her, and took a look at the pamphlet with her. “Yes,” I said. “The GED class you want is at the high school, on Tuesday night.”

She told me about studying English in high school, in her country of origin in South America. Again I smiled and was encouraging. “You speak English really well for taking only a couple of years of classes. I wish I could speak another language as well.” She beamed and nodded her head in gratitude for my words. She was very hesitant about English grammar, it turned out. Plus, she also was enrolled in citizenship classes. I was quite supportive. “That’s great! I wish you the best in both of your classes. God’s blessings in this new year, too.” She smiled even more widely. She wanted to know my name. Elizabeth, I told her. She readily gave me her name.

I think I made a new friend!

This is not an isolated incident.

I guess I have that kind of appearance that makes me approachable. People come up to me on the street, or when I’m stopped at a stop light. They’ll roll down their window and tell me they’re lost. And, ask directions. Or when I’m standing in line at a grocery store they’ll engage me in conversation. Tell me about personal details of their lives. Believe me, it happens! (My family is endlessly amused, and say that I have that kind of face. Or chaplainly air. Or something.)

In preparation for this year of service, I’ve prayed specifically to be open and willing, each day. As subtext to my month’s service, for January, the verse I have chosen is Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” I think I was kind to this sweet young woman. She and I made a genuine connection. And—I pray that I was of service.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

 

Being There For Someone–Or Two Someones

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, January 27, 2014

BK Eph 4-32

Being There For Someone—Or Two Someones

I went to the grocery store recently. Just ran in to grab a couple of things before going home for the night. Lo and behold, I happened to run into a couple I’ve known for years, but haven’t seen for some time. It was wonderful to see them! We had a joy-filled meeting, right there in the dairy aisle. We all hugged, and we picked up right where we had left off, several years ago.

Isn’t it amazing how that can happen, with certain friends? You don’t see each other for many months, or even years, and then you meet again—unexpectedly, in a grocery store, for instance—and it’s just as if the last time we met was only a few days ago. We started up an unfinished conversation just as if we had only been briefly interrupted. (I’m smiling as I write, because it’s so marvelous! Good, good friends.)

One half of the couple recently started a new job, and I rejoiced with him. “That’s wonderful,” I said. “Congratulations!” Right off the bat, we began to talk in depth, not simply superficial stuff at all. (That’s one thing I love about my friend. We can both dive into the serious stuff when we need to, and find ourselves on the same wave length.)

I know the verse I’m lifting up for this month is Ephesians 4:32. Looking back at the conversation my friend and I had, we both exemplified being kind and tenderhearted to each other. There was a great deal of give and take, both of us listened to each other sincerely. We didn’t waste time, but got down to honest, open communication.

Funny thing, communication. Words are powerful. Words can be hurtful and destructive. (As both my friend and I can attest.) But words can also praise, build up, encourage, comfort, and soothe. This passage from the end of Ephesians 4 has a list of both negative as well as positive suggestions for action. Sure, the list of the things we are not supposed to emulate is clear, but so is the positive list. Communication can rank high on the positive list, and seems to be a common thread. We are encouraged to exhibit these positive characteristics in our words, deeds and lives. Communicating in a way that is pleasing to God is a marvelous start.

My friend and I certainly were supportive to each other when we met by chance. Or was it by chance? God’s providence, perhaps? I suspect God had a hand in our meeting, because I believe we all received encouragement from each other. Isn’t that the way that God often works? Even when God’s hand might be mostly hidden from view?

As verse 32 tells us, we can build up each other. Whether we’re friends, family or simply strangers, it’s the loving, encouraging thing to do. Be kind and tenderhearted.

@chaplaineliza

Being Kind Through Forgiveness

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, January 21, 2014

forgive others

Being Kind Through Forgiveness

Have you ever suddenly realized something serious? I mean, deep down significant? Yup. That happened to me today.

This afternoon I talked with someone I sincerely respect and appreciate. I was going on and on (as I sometimes tend to do when excited and/or emotional), and my friend pointed out something significant. She summarized what I had said and then lifted up the pertinent point. I mean, the thing practically bit me on the nose, it was so obvious. I needed to forgive, badly. I couldn’t hold on to that resentment any longer.

Awestruck, I sat there for a moment or two, and then I thanked my friend. Newly resurfaced, the thing was bobbing around at the top of my mind. Not that I was gnawing on it regularly, but something caused the thing to resurface last week after a long time of not thinking about it. I vividly had the realization that resentment was curdling inside of me like extremely sour milk. (Eww!!) Again suddenly, I realized I had been holding that awful, nasty feeling inside of me for many, many months. I had to let it go.

For this blog, the verse I have been focusing on for the month of January is Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” I’ve spoken a lot about being kind and tenderhearted to one another already. But I haven’t said anything about the second half of this verse. Until now. I need to forgive others. I mean, I really need to forgive, because God has forgiven me. I can think of three distinct times (there are more, of course) in the Gospels where Jesus specifically deals with forgiveness. (The three times I have in mind are two parables and in the Lord’s Prayer). Yes, Lord. You’ve got me. Right between the eyes. Guilty as charged.

I received abundant, loving forgiveness from God for my many faults and flaws, for sins of commission and omission. Therefore, I need to freely turn around and forgive. Any personal, practical outworking of God’s forgiveness in my life will be realized as I actively forgive others. Yes, Lord. Intellectually, I know this truth. I even have experienced it, on any number of occasions. However, this half-forgotten thing in my life was secretly curdling on some inner, recessed pantry shelf. On my insides, deep within. Pulling it out of my memory last week was just the beginning. When I discussed it today with my friend, I received some relief. Going further and acknowledging it to God will bring me further peace of mind. Taking that additional step of asking forgiveness of God and releasing that horrid resentment will bring me serenity. Then and only then, will I experience serenity and peace first with God (most important), with others, and (also significant) with myself.

I suppose today I was kind to myself. Not that I have completely forgiven the situation. No, but I’ve taken several steps towards forgiveness. I’ve started; I am halfway there. <deep sigh> Thanks, God.

@chaplaineliza

Of Breakfast and Being Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, January 15, 2014

water sunrise

water sunrise

Of Breakfast and Being Kind

I went to a business breakfast this morning. Genial, good conversation. I enjoyed myself a great deal, although I needed to leave a little early. There were ten of us there. Eight men, me, and one other woman. I knew several of the others. The rest were strangers I was glad to meet.

I had known the woman, an acquaintance of mine, for some years. We hadn’t had a chance to reconnect for some time. It was good to sit next to her at the breakfast. We talked about ourselves, our families, and generally caught up with one another. She confided in me, “It’s good to have another woman here to talk to.” It’s not that either of us is at all averse to being with a room full of men. Certainly not! I really enjoy being with the guys. My friend said she often did, too. But this particular morning, she was happy to hang out with and eat breakfast with a fellow woman.

Afterwards, this comment led me to think further. I didn’t purposely decide to be kind to my friend. It just sort of happened. I was the way I usually am, in interaction with people. I am an intuitive, feeling-sort of person. I am aware of (and sometimes absorb) the emotion and attitude of the people I’m around.  I found myself behaving in an open, friendly way at the relaxed breakfast. I engage with others much more easily in this kind of situation!

I was able to share a little about what I do as a chaplain, and as a caregiver. I come alongside of people. Often in traumatic, highly emotional times. I try to contain strong emotion, and be with people in their time of need. But sometimes I can be there for people in more low-key, genial times. Like this morning, having breakfast with my friend.

Thinking about the beginning of Ephesians 4:32 (our verse for the month!), “Be kind, tender-hearted.” This verse encourages all of us to be kind—that is, sweet, amiable, gentle in disposition. Certainly not hasty, short-tempered, or abrasive. Second, we’re also told to be tender-hearted. That means especially compassionate, even if this is not the default way of being for some people. I can be particularly challenged to be this sort of person at all times, to act this way with everyone I meet. (Even though my personal default way of being does tend towards this kind of behavior.)

When I purposed to do 365 days of service, and to write a corresponding blog for each day (thus, A Year of Being Kind), I tried to have as few expectations as possible. I suppose that was so I could wander my way through each day, encountering people and practicing kindness whenever and wherever God wanted. I am only two weeks into the year. Already, I am amazed at how God has chosen to bring kind, helpful things and acts of service my way, each day. God, I wonder what You are going to bring me for tomorrow? I can hardly wait!

@chaplaineliza

Being Kind, Crossing International Borders

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Walking with Friends," by Carolee Clark

“Walking with Friends,” by Carolee Clark

Being Kind, Crossing International Borders

Earlier today, I happened to stop on the stairs. I had an unexpected encounter with someone from another country, and I hope I was of service.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll give a little background, and set up the story. As is my habit during the week, I went to the gym to do some stretching and cardio exercise. I had finished a good workout, and started down to the women’s locker room. Halfway down the stairs, I saw a young woman holding an open pamphlet, obviously reading intently. She looked puzzled, and frowned at the piece of paper. I slowed down, since she caught my attention. She glanced up. We smiled at each other. And that’s all it took for her to engage me in conversation.

As it turned out, she held a pamphlet that listed information about GED classes. She trustingly started pouring out her story in accented but fairly good English. She wanted to take a GED course. And then, get her GED to be more prepared to get jobs here in the Chicago area. I encouraged her, and took a look at the pamphlet with her. “Yes,” I said. “The GED class you want is at the high school, on Tuesday night.” She told me about studying English in high school, in her country of origin in South America. Again I smiled and was encouraging. “You speak English really well for taking only a couple of years of classes. I wish I could speak another language as well.” She beamed and nodded her head in gratitude for my words. She was very hesitant about English grammar, it turned out. Plus, she also was enrolled in citizenship classes. I was quite supportive. “That’s great! I wish you the best in both of your classes. God’s blessings in this new year, too.” She smiled even more widely. She wanted to know my name. Elizabeth, I told her. She readily gave me her name. I think I made a new friend!

This is not an isolated incident. I guess I have that kind of appearance that makes me approachable. People come up to me on the street, or when I’m stopped at a stop light. They’ll roll down their window and tell me they’re lost. And, ask directions. Or when I’m standing in line at a grocery store they’ll engage me in conversation. Tell me about personal details of their lives. Believe me, it happens! (My family is endlessly amused, and say that I have that kind of face. Or chaplainly air. Or something.)

In preparation for this year of service, I’ve prayed specifically to be open and willing, each day. As subtext to my month’s service, for January, the verse I have chosen is Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” I think I was kind to this sweet young woman. She and I made a genuine connection. And—I pray that I was of service.

@chaplaineliza