Kindness to Those with Less

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, October 8, 2014

BK only kindness matteres

Kindness to Those with Less

Ever have something come to mind from a long time ago? Something you thought was long forgotten? That happened to me. I remembered something from three decades ago, last week.

This sort of thing happens periodically. I forget some things, and they get submerged in my memory. My subconscious mind. And then—from time to time I have no idea why—the person or event or occurrence pops up in my conscious thoughts. Sometimes, I think of it as mental driftwood, washing up on the shores of my memory. I walk along the beaches of my mind collecting the driftwood, turning it over and over. Once in a while, I get extremely uncomfortable with my memories. But not this time. This was a pleasing memory. A happy memory.

Almost thirty years ago, I received a lump sum of money. I was quite grateful, and quickly figured out what I was going to do with it. Part of it went for the marvelous upright piano that is sitting here in my living room, not ten feet away from me. (Thanks, Tim, for assisting me with that purchase!) However, I decided to use some of it to help out a family—anonymously. I believe this is the first time I have ever openly discussed this. Ever. (Other than with my then-husband, at the time.) I guess I took Jesus’ injunction in Matthew 6 seriously: when giving to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. I tried to keep my action quiet, and not let anyone know. Until now.

Several times I remember—it might have been four, or perhaps five times—I sent them some money. Anonymously. I knew this was a needy family, and I knew I had an unexpected financial windfall. So, I was kind to them. Without letting them know where the money came from.

In late December 2013, I made plans for this year’s blog. I set out verses from all over the Bible on being kind. Including this verse for October – Proverbs 19:17 “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.” When I chose this particular verse, I wasn’t thinking of this specific situation from three decades ago. However, now I am. I am pleased I gave that family some needed funds. I remember thinking at the time of how excited they probably were, opening the envelope that came in the mail, and discovering the cash inside the cheerful card.

Other than a period of financial hardship a few years after this act of kindness, I have always had enough to live on. Not an extravagant amount, by any means. My family has lived in a modest, no-frills, four-room condominium for the past twenty years. Not much money to spare. But I am, on the whole, content. God willing, I’ll continue that way. And, now that I am remembering them, I wish this family the very best!

@chaplaineliza

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Compliments—How Kind! (Thank You!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, September 17, 2014

GRATEFUL always something to be grateful for

Compliments—How Kind! (Thank You!)

Today was Wednesday, as usual. I mean, usual midweek bible study. I enjoy teaching! I love the bible study group that gathers each week in the choir room at church. And, I am so glad I found the bible study on the names and titles of Jesus (an older study, published by NavPress).

I missed meeting for regular bible studies midweek, in July and August. Of course I understood why the group did not continue meeting over the really hot months of the summer. Certainly! But, there was something missing from my week. Some connection, some personal interaction. Sure, I continued to call people, and do hospital and home visitation, but it wasn’t the same. Not like getting together and sharing like we do on Wednesdays. (And Sundays, too! I don’t want to forget about the wonderful sermon discussion bible study after church service. Such great insights there, as well!)

But this post is specifically about what happened today.

As we went around the table to check in with people and see what was happening, we came to the next person. This lovely senior began to sincerely compliment me. I had served her family at a critical time recently, and she wanted to thank me and tell me how much she appreciated me. Publicly. I was so grateful—and surprised and pleased, too. I told her of my gratitude and expressed my thanks to her.

Several more people had their turns, then. We heard several more prayer requests, had a few more laughs, and—came to another earnest senior. This lady also praised me—for my teaching and group facilitation, this time. (I know I enjoy teaching, but—wow!) She sincerely complimented me, thanked me, and expressed her appreciation for my clarity in communication. (Again—wow!)

You could have knocked me over with a feather. Of course, I thanked her and accepted the compliment, too. I was—and still am—so moved by both of their grateful expressions. So wonderful! I am still hugging these very kind words to my heart, believe me. Such good words of approval encourage me and build me up, you can count on that.

Long ago, I remember reading in an article (I believe it was in Psychology Today) that compliments create positive energy. I am used to giving compliments. In fact, I love to see the good aspects of people, and mention that to them. I am less used to receiving compliments.

I sincerely hope I was gracious in receiving the kind, generous compliments today! Sure, they created positive, loving energy, all around the table. Such a wonderful gift for the whole bible study today, too. God willing, I hope this good feeling and positive energy lasts for a good long time. (Thank You again, God!)

@chaplaineliza

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Helping? At a Car Wash!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, September 6, 2014

car wash illustration photo credit - timesunion.com, 9/11/11

car wash illustration
photo credit – timesunion.com, 9/11/11

Helping? At a Car Wash!

Yesterday? Wild weather! Torrential rain, powerful wind gusts, sky black as shoe polish for more than half an hour. Absolutely a 180 degree change from today: powder blue sky, low humidity, with picture perfect weather. Perfect weather for a football game (my husband is a Northwestern alum, and he follows the football team). And—perfect weather for a car wash at my church.

This was the second annual car wash at St. Luke’s Church. Rally Weekend, the Sunday school kickoff for fall! I helped a little bit, by providing taxi service for two of our young people. I drove to the El station to pick them up, and bring them to the church to help out with the car wash. I really enjoyed being of service today!

A steady stream of cars and vans came through the wash line today. Enough to keep the volunteers busy, active and washing for most of the time the car wash was in operation. Plus, the hot dog lunch we offered to those who waited was much appreciated! I considered the time all of us spent out in the church parking lot to be time well spent: raising the church’s profile in the community. All good!

I did not need to get involved with the actual washing of cars, this time. I was ready, and willing! However, my services in the car washing department were not necessary. But—I did keep some people company while they were waiting for their cars to be washed. Providing hospitality? Helping people to feel comfortable? Making pleasant conversation and giving information about our church and the coming activities this fall? I tried to do all of these things!

This reminds me of what different roles people play in the church. Or in other religious organizations. Some people do the hands-on stuff, the actual physical labor. Others do the set-up, and the preparation. Some provide that necessary social lubricant, the customer service, public relations and advertising. Some also make sure that people are fed, that their needs are taken care of. And lastly, there is the cleanup. When individuals work together, have camaraderie, and talk and laugh together? That, in and of itself, is one of the best things that can come out of an event like this. Relationship building.

What about relationship building with God? Vertically? I need to work on that, too. When I consider how much God wants a relationship with me? I find myself thankful. And grateful.

Thanks, God! Thanks for wanting me back as a friend. As a follower. As a grateful person. Even when I sin, or fall away, or just leave undone those things that I didn’t do work last sign. Help me to do better, please! Thanks, God.

@chaplaineliza

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Challenging Service, in Chicago (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, August 8, 2014

father gave me a gift-belief in me

Challenging Service, in Chicago (Feature Friday!)

Today is Friday, and it’s time for another Feature Friday. Except—this Friday feature is more challenging than some in past months.

What would you do if you were orphaned as a small child, and had no other close relatives? Or, how would life be different for you if you grew up in a poverty-stricken, single-parent household? What other serious events or continuing situations could radically change your story?  Would that fundamentally change how you grew up? Who you were, and more importantly, who you became?

This Feature Friday post tells about Emmaus Ministries, “Ministering to men in prostitution since 1990.” (according to their website) One big part of the ministry is trust and respect. Always in pairs, walking the streets alongside of the men. Coming alongside and listening to their stories. Stories are powerful. Everyone has a story, but some people cannot tell their stories. The people at Emmaus Ministries go out of their way to find out about the stories—sometimes difficult and traumatic, often painful—from the men on the street. As these relationships of trust and respect grow, the workers at Emmaus help the men to take steps to get off the streets, into a more stable place and position in their lives.

Some on-the-street experiences come from the founder of Emmaus Ministries, John Green. “Streetwalking with Jesus,” a book written by John Green with Dawn Herzog Jewell, vividly tells about justice and mercy. As he reflects on Micah 6:8, Green deals with such questions as “how do I live justly? To whom do I show mercy?  How may I walk humbly with God?” Working with male prostitutes is truly a challenge. And, a merciful and just way to live out the Good News.

The stories can involve addiction and alcoholism. Long-term unemployment (both for the men as well as their families). Homelessness. Other forms of instability and hardship, trauma and violence. Sometimes, several of these difficult items come into the stories. But the workers and volunteers at Emmaus Ministries are there to listen with compassion, to try to understand, and to help where they can. For example, on Emmaus’ blog, a recently-released person expressed his gratitude for the letters and calls that came to the prison for him. In fact, they were the only calls and visits this man had, from anyone, while he was imprisoned. Talk about gratitude!

Just having the opportunity to say you’re sorry? Or, I’m grateful? Or, I’m so afraid? Emotions! Scary, unpredictable! Sometimes; though, taking advantage of that blessing means so much. If you came from a shaky foster family, or a dysfunctional family in extreme poverty, this relationship with the workers at Emmaus sometimes might be the first healthy relationship they have had with another adult.

God bless every person blessed by Emmaus Ministry! And God be with those who will be in sme trial or tribulation. God, please! In your mystery, compassion and love, be with every person as they go about their business. Help Emmaus workers point many people to God, and let everyone know that Emmaus Ministries is truly a loving, caring, and worthwhile ministry.

@chaplaineliza

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In Which I Am of Service, with Groceries

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, July 29, 2014

small things with great love

In Which I Am of Service, with Groceries

At work today, I discussed mission with several people. More specifically, the mission of our church, and how the church allocates mission funds. Several weeks ago, the church council member overseeing the mission budget instructed me to find out more about two areas of mission and outreach, if I could. (Especially since I went to a mission conference last week.) Both areas are wonderful causes and outreaches, and I tried to find out what I could.

Yes, I now have some further information. The New Wilmington Mission Conference is a fantastic place to start, if a church wants more information about outreaches. However, I couldn’t help but think about our own backyard, our own township. There are people who are hungry, families in financial difficulty, and unemployed heads of households right in the town where the church is located, as well as the larger community. I spoke to these friends about boosting our support for the local food pantry, and my suggestion was favorably received. I’ll repeat the suggestion next week, at the church council meeting.

I left work later in the afternoon. After doing several errands and seeing a few friends, I stopped by a grocery store. On the south side of town, where I don’t usually shop any longer. I saw a middle-aged man with dreadlocks and a lovely smile sitting outside the store enclosure, on several of those plastic milk crates. I smiled at him as I came up. I walked right to him, instead of passing him by, without even making eye contact.

The whisper of a feeling inside me suddenly came out. My mouth opened, and I asked him, “Would you like something? I don’t have too much to spare, but is there anything I could get for you?” He seemed a bit surprised, but came right back with, “Yes. Yes, there is. I would like a can of tuna, please.” Another friend of his was standing at his side. She asked him what he was planning to do with the tuna. He thought a moment, and then frowned. “Hmm. I’m out of mayonnaise now. But at least I have bread. I can eat that with the tuna.” I smiled again, and said I’d see what prices were, inside.

Lo and behold, tuna was on sale. Brand-name, too! And even the mayonnaise was on sale. I got a couple of bananas, as well. That was besides the milk, bananas, soup (on sale!) and potato salad I got for myself.

Outside, I gave the lovely man the grocery bag I had packed for him. He thanked me with a grateful hug, and blessed me. I wished him a blessed night and good sleep, as well. It wasn’t until I had arrived home from the store that I realized what this was. This was being kind. Being of service. Offering groceries to a man I knew—even though I’m just a little bit acquainted with him. He was so appreciative.

That made this whole mission outreach thing come to mind, too. I may not be super-wealthy, but I do have a little extra. God, thanks for urging me to get the few groceries for this man. I earnestly pray for him, and for all of those who love and care for him. And, thanks for the wonderful idea to get him groceries, too.

@chaplaineliza

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Being Kind, Thanks to Dentristry

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, July 8, 2014

God my child, you worry too much

Being Kind, Thanks to Dentristry

I am not quite up to par today. Reason? I had oral surgery. (Yay, me!) Warning: if anyone reading is particularly squeamish, you might not like to read what follows.

I needed a wisdom tooth extracted. I had some infection up there, and the tooth had to come out. Thank God, it was a basic, routine procedure. (Basic and routine for the oral surgeon my husband and I go to, anyhow.) My kind, sweet husband accompanied me, and the oral surgeon was marvelous. Everyone bent over backwards to make this extraction as painless and efficient an occasion as possible.

I understood—intellectually—that this extraction was basic. Almost routine. But I was scared. I was still shaking. Frightened, on a deep, fundamental level.

Why, you ask?

I did not take care of my teeth when I was small. I also ate a lot of sweets. So, by the time I hit kindergarten, I had a number of small cavities in my teeth. I would not sit still for the dentist my parents used. So, my parents sent me to a special dentist. He was special, all right! He was downright cruel. He held my jaw in a deathgrip, and had the most piercing eyes of anyone I had ever seen in real life. Through the sheer force of his will, plus a healthy dose of sadism, he was able to fill the cavities.

He also scarred me for life. Seriously, I still have severe dental anxiety, on a deep, fundamental level.

I am so grateful to everyone who was so kind to me today. My husband went out of his way to do some extra-special things for me. Getting my prescriptions. Going to the grocery store. Leaving me alone and letting me sleep. (I took three naps today, after the procedure. I was so wiped out.) It was a perfectly lovely day, today, too. Eighty degrees, moderate breeze, lower humidity, big fluffy clouds in the sky. So, I truly enjoyed the rest of the day—that is, after the procedure was done with. Other than some soreness and tenderness in the rear of my mouth.

God, I realized today (and I mentioned as much to my husband) that dentistry has developed and evolved to such an extent that tooth removal and pain management are relatively minor blips on a person’s physical-radar-screen. Thank You, God, for helping me grit my teeth, and follow through with this procedure. Thank You for the wonderful people who made this experience not only bearable, but manageable. And God—thank You for all the people who are kind to me, on a daily basis. Especially my husband.

@chaplaineliza

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A Poppy for Remembrance

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, May 24, 2014

red poppy painting

A Poppy for Remembrance

A beautiful day! Clear blue sky, low humidity, comfortable Memorial Day weekend. All in all, a great day.

I went downtown (in my suburb) to have breakfast with a few friends mid-morning. Today was such a lovely day that I almost felt like skipping down the sidewalk. My friends and I strolled along, talking, when I spied a man with a big bunch of poppies. The man stood near a street corner. He had on a baseball-style cap, but with some military insignia emblazoned on it.

I had been wondering about poppies. I always get at least one poppy on Memorial Day weekend. More, if I can. Poppies are for remembrance. And—I know I will be remembering my father and his three brothers, who all fought in World War II. They served in various capacities, in various branches of the armed forces.

My father Jack was stationed in the China-India-Burma theater of operations, in the Army Air Corps. I don’t really know too much about his service, because he never told me much. Except that the weather was really unpleasant, there were insects all over (of every description!), he was heartily glad of mosquito netting at night, and that the bulk of his time in the Army consisted of “hurry up and wait.” On occasion, while I was growing up, he would get stern and call for me and my older siblings to come “front and center!” I knew what that meant—I better show up speedy-quick! And be quiet and respectful, once I got there in front of him, besides.

But, back to poppies. The poppies are made by veterans in the VA hospitals, and distributed in many, many places by the American Legion, and the American Legion Auxiliary. But where did this originate? The red poppy was a symbol of the fallen soldiers, taken from a poem written during the first World War by a Canadian officer, Colonel John MacCrae: “In Flanders field the poppies blow,/Between the crosses row on row—“ The servicemen who returned brought back this vivid memory. Soon, poppies became a symbol of remembrance of the fallen servicemen and women who lost their lives during the wars. The disabled veterans took the poppy as their own, making them and distributing them for remembrance, on Memorial Day. And, contributions go towards rehabilitation work and disabled veterans, nationwide.

So—there I was. Face to face with this man in the baseball cap. I didn’t have too much in my wallet. Only a couple of bucks. But, I gave it to him, put the dollars in the can. He gave me a poppy, out of the large, red bunch of paper flowers he held. I told him about my dad and uncles, in World War II. He nodded, and said he had served in the first Gulf War, and pointed to an anchor pinned to his chest. “I was a Navy man,” he said. He wasn’t very talkative after that, but he certainly seemed grateful to receive the donation. And grateful for the openness on my part, to hear about him and his service.

God, bless this veteran. And every other veteran, nationwide. Especially those who have died in the service of our country.

@chaplaineliza

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Reach Out, and Be Kind to Someone!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, May 21, 2014

GRATEFUL gratitude changes things

Reach Out, and Be Kind to Someone!

So today is Wednesday, the day when I facilitate a bible study at my work. I’ve been leading a series of studies on the post-Resurrection appearances of Christ, since Easter. (Another week, another post-Resurrection appearance!)

Before the bible study started, I met with Mary, the church council member in charge of the mission effort at this church. Yes, it is a small church. However—this church has a great track record, as far as supporting outreach into the wider world! It was instructive for me to see exactly where this church’s support went, and what they thought was (and is!) important.

This started me thinking about the verse for the month of May—my verse for A Year of Being Kind. Deuteronomy 15:11 – “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward the poor and needy in your land.” What a verse for outreach! Whether you (or I) think of outreach as mission effort, or helping the community, or giving others “a cup of cold water,” this verse from Deuteronomy makes me think, hard.

This verse comes from the Hebrew Scriptures, specifically, the five books of Moses, or the Torah. My youngest daughter and I just had an in-depth conversation about the books of the Law, earlier this week. She (who is going to declare an English major at college this fall) recently read several chapters in a related book, Leviticus. She made the insightful comment that many of the laws and statutes of the Mosaic Law Code were eminently sensible.

For instance, take this command: being kind and considerate to the poor and needy serves a communal purpose. It brings individuals into community, solidarity with each other. And, it helps people who truly need a hand. This command gives everyone a chance to be grateful—to the givers, for being blessed with resources to give away, and to the receivers, for being blessed with the resources freely given.

It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about the land of Israel, two thousand years before the Christian Era, or about modern-day middle America—the suburban Chicago area, in fact. The poor and needy are still here, and we are still called, still commanded to be openhanded towards all those who are in need. God, help me to see where I can help. Be of service. Be kind to others. Lead me towards areas where You want me to get involved.

Learning more about mission? Learning more about outreach? Learning more about gratitude? What better way to spend the morning?

@chaplaineliza

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Peace Be With You, With Me—With Everybody!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, May 7, 2014

pink roses

Peace Be With You, With Me—With Everybody!

Peace can be a transient thing. It’s difficult to come by for some people, and even more difficult to hold on to, for others. I know in my life, I have not always been peaceful. At peace. For years, I have (more often than not) been longing for peace, even actively searching for peace . . . and not finding it.

A number of years ago, when my two older girls were toddler and preschooler, their father and I were having a particularly difficult time with finances and with unemployment. It lasted for several years. We shopped at resale stores. We counted pennies. We went without a great number of things. We had a really tough time paying for necessary stuff like doctor bills and medication. (Remember when your toddler or preschooler would have the occasional ear infection, or strep throat?)

I am so grateful for family members! Loving, kind, giving family members gave us a hand. Helped us out. I don’t know how I would have made it through without our great families! But, wait! You say, that’s great for long time ago, but . . . what gives? Sure, what you’ve said so far is all very nice. All heartwarming and everything. But it was some years ago! What about today? How am I—how are we being kind today?

I’m so glad you asked! Some time has passed, and I have been actively searching for peace ever since. More often than not, for years. And years.

I believe I have some idea of peace in my life, right now. At bible study today, we were all talking about peace. God’s peace. How Jesus wished His disciples—His followers peace. What did that mean, anyway?

To greet someone with the word “Peace” was a common way of saying hello, in the first century. In Hebrew, the word is shalom. “Peace” didn’t mean just a cessation of violence . No, the connotation of the word shalom meant much, much more. By using this greeting, the risen Christ was wishing His followers not only peace and wellness, but also wholeness, in terms of the world being made peaceful.

As we talked about this rich, multi-layered concept of peace—of shalom, what a wonderful idea it is! How awesome, to have Jesus wishing this for the disciples. And even, wishing it for each of us, too! That was my act of service today, telling people about the peace of Christ. Truly, a wonderful discovery for each of us.

I don’t know about you, but I think Jesus can deliver. For me, and for you, too. I put my trust in the risen Christ. I know the risen Christ makes Himself available to me. On a daily basis, even. And how awesome is that?

@chaplaineliza

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Blessed Are Those Who Keep Their Mouths Shut

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, February 12, 2014

fruit of the Spirit

fruit of the Spirit

Blessed Are Those Who Keep Their Mouths Shut

Recently, I had another experience that showed me how blessed it is to keep my mouth shut.

It happened this way. I was in conversation with someone. I talk to a number of similar people, at least several times a week. I try to be courteous and kind. Naturally! Of course! It’s simply the way that I customarily operate.

But not this time. I don’t know quite what was the matter, but I must have felt out of sorts. Maybe I was tired or hungry. Or something. But for whatever reason, I had a short fuse. And I almost exploded in my acquaintance’s face while we were talking.

This situation reminds me of the fruit of the Spirit, from Galatians 5. I get the sneaking suspicion that I have a certain amount of most of these qualities—I have love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness. I’m pretty patient, gentle, and faithful. But the one where I consistently fall down is self-control. I do not have the best self-control in the world, especially when things can be really exciting, or fun, or good-tasting, or an awesome experience. No, my self-control does not rate very highly.   I’ve known about this difficulty with self-control for years. Decades, in fact. I have prayed about it off and on ever since. I’m still waiting.

I know that God is pleased with me when I’m involved with others. Or doing things for others. Could be showing kindness or love. Any way out of myself, and towards someone else.   We’ve already talked about how pleased God is because of acts of service. When a believer in God does something loving or honest, or exhibits attitudes that are kind or gentle, those kinds of actions can also be thought of as acts of service . . . for people in recovery, too.  One of the foundation principles of recovery is doing things for others—in other words, getting the focus away from “myself” and performing some act of service

But back to the story. As I mentioned, I had a conversation. I was somehow out of sorts. The other person made a comment that struck me as really silly. I was about to fire back with a sarcastic statement or cynical comment, when . . . I didn’t. Instead, I finished up the exchange with two or three more sentences and excused myself. So, I wouldn’t be further tempted to make any more snarky comments.

All I can say is, I am grateful to God for helping me to shut my mouth and keep it shut, instead of “flaming” others. To change up an old children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can stay in my head and heart forever.” I am grateful and thankful that God helped me to stop before I said anything unwise or unkind. Words can hurt in a powerful way, and words can stay in the heart and mind for years. Thank God that I didn’t add to those mean, nasty words. Thank God that I was able to keep them to myself.

So, yes. My act of service in that particular situation was keeping my mouth closed.

@chaplaineliza