Being Kind by Cracking a Joke (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, August 31, 2018

This post made me so happy! When I read through this, I instantly remembered the young man whose day I brightened. Imagine, I was able to do that just by giving him a bright smile and making a humorous comment. How many other people go through their everyday activities all sad and down in the dumps, with no one to make them smile? It was a simple interaction I had with the cashier, and I hope a meaningful one, too. It is a reminder for me: be kind. Be helpful. Be of service. Please.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, September 1, 2014

ruddy duck, Chgo Bot Grdn, photo credit Kevin Jones

Ruddy duck (male), as identified by my friend Tom Russell.
photo credit – Kevin Jones, Chicago Botanic Garden, 9/1/14

Being Kind by Cracking a Joke

Today is Labor Day! The “official” end of summer, and a day for holiday festivities, picnics, barbeques, and all manner of outside activities. I spent a quiet holiday with my husband. Quiet and enjoyable! My husband wanted to go to one of our favorite places in town, the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Even though the day felt muggy, the overcast sky helped the weather seem a bit cooler. So, there we were. Traveling northward, taking our time. It was a holiday morning, I reminded my husband.

When we arrived at the Botanic Gardens, my husband (once again) commented on the fact that we have a Garden membership. (My father-in-law is very kind! That’s been his Christmas present to our family for quite a few years now.) “Yup. We can go right ahead, in the members’ lane. Don’t need to wait in line to pay. Yes, indeed.” I shook my head at my husband for his ridiculousness, and commented that he sounded quite a bit like Don Knotts in “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.”

It was a good thing that my husband took his large umbrella along when we left the car. The overcast sky threatened rain all morning. Lo and behold, the rain started while we were quite some distance from the entry gate, in the middle of the garden. As I said, good thing. In fact, it was a novelty for us to walk around the garden in the rain.

And the flowers! The colors! We saw a riot of color! Explosions of flowers! Absolutely gorgeous time to go to one of the most beautiful natural places in the Chicago area.

All that leads up to the being-kind part for the day. After having my fill of beauty and lovely flowers and restful greenery, I stopped at the gas station just west and north of the Garden. Very large gas station. Lots of gas pumps, and roomy interior to the building. As I went into the building to pay, I noticed the young man behind the counter. He looked glum. I mean, really sad. I paused, a number of steps away from the counter, and watched him carefully as he waited on another customer. I could just feel the sadness in him: a palpable thing.

As I stepped up to the counter, I gave him my signature smile. (I do have a friendly smile. I’ve mentioned it before.) “Good afternoon!” I pushed my twenty dollar bill across the counter, slowly. He watched it slide towards him for one second, and then two. He picked it up as I said, “I’d like twenty dollars,” and paused. Grinned wider—“on lucky pump number thirteen!” The cashier was a bit taken aback at my comment, and then instantly recovered. His whole appearance transformed, his face lit up. Nodded. He opened the cash register, and continued to smile at me. I waved as I turned to go.

Such a little thing. Off the cuff. I didn’t even think before I made that comment to that young man. But I suspect I made a difference to him, today. I hope so. I pray so. God, please be with that young man! Today, and every day.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a meditation journey through Pentecost and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!) (also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

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Showing Love and Kindness—On a Bus!

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, February 4, 2015

Sometimes a smile can do a world of good. It can lighten someone’s day. Just take a look at this conversation I had, a year ago.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, February 4, 2014

City bus - credit Marin Dobson

City bus – credit Marin Dobson

Showing Love and Kindness—On a Bus!

I can get into the most intriguing conversations with people I meet, at a moment’s notice. My family rolls their (collective) eyes, sighs, and says, “Oh, Mom.” (Or simply sighs, in my husband’s case.)

I took the opportunity of a day off from work to go to the YMCA this morning, after bringing my son to school. I went into the women’s locker room to change into my workout clothes. Many of the same people were there, the usual denizens of the gym and the pool on a typical weekday morning. I took my time to change, relishing the extra time I had at my disposal.

A woman I had met a number of times before bustled up to a locker near me. We hadn’t seen each other for some days. After we said hello, she was reminded—internally—of the blog I’ve been writing. (Yes, this blog.) She turned to me as she changed and asked how the blog was going. “Fine!” I said, with a smile. She is involved with a non profit organization that assists women and children, and she wanted more information about the blog. So that some of the women could post suggestions about acts of kindness they are familiar with. I said that would be great, and thanked her so much! We talked a bit about how people could contact me. (Reminder: anyone can always contact me at the Facebook page A Year of Being Kind, or through my Twitter account @chaplaineliza, or through wordpress.com—just in case anyone was wondering.)

Another woman, a few lockers down, happened to be listening to us as we spoke about intentional acts of kindness and service. My friend went off to the gym upstairs as I began to talk to the second, older woman. She apologized for eavesdropping on my conversation, but I told her that was perfectly all right. Introduced myself, and the two of us immediately engaged in conversation, also! She told me about an act of service that instantly came to her mind, as soon as she heard about people being kind. “Giving people a smile. Just that simple action can help so much.”

I agreed, and told her about my smile (and I showed it to her, too—my smile just-sort-of happens, you understand). She smiled back, and we exchanged a few words about smiles. But then she went back to her story. She used to ride the bus here in our suburb to work. A bus driver on the route greeted everyone who got on his bus with a big smile, friendly and cheerful. As the woman told me about this driver, she obviously remembered him with fondness. A big smile came across her face. “I used to tell him that his bus ought to be called ‘the Happy Bus.’”

What a happy memory! And what a kind thing to do. A smile and a positive attitude may seem to be little things, but they can brighten a person’s day. They changed this woman’s day, this morning, just remembering. Thank God for small things—like smiles.

@chaplaineliza

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

Children Make Me Happy!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, April 28, 2014

Jesus and children drawing

Children Make Me Happy!

Yes, children have the potential of making me happy. Simple, straight-forward, open, friendly, trusting. All these things about children refresh me. Energize me. There is a preschool at the church where I have my new job. When I see them in the halls or in other places around the church, I often feel happy inside. They are almost like an automatic smile maker.

I loved having small children, myself. I loved being able to slow down to a child’s pace, to look at the world through their eyes. To gaze with wonder at a huge snowflake landing on the woolen arm of a winter coat, or a spider making its orb web in the backyard, or an ant hurrying on its way with a crumb twice its size on its back. All of these make me pause and reflect. If it weren’t for children, how often would I slow down and look at the little things of life? I mean, the tiny details, the unexpectedly surprising discoveries of everyday experience?

And to sing and make music with children? Singing silly songs, doing all the hand motions, getting up and marching around the classroom, or doing the hokey-pokey? (That’s what it’s all about, you know!) No wonder there is so much laughter and merriment coming from preschools all over!

God compares us to small children, in the Hebrew Scriptures. Or rather, God compares the nation of Israel to a small child. (And by scriptural and hermeneutical understanding, we—today—can also compare ourselves to small children, too. But I digress from my biblical example.) In chapter 11 of Hosea, the prophet talks of God picking up the nation of Israel like a small child and cuddling the small child/nation of Israel to God’s chest/breast. This is such a maternal image! Sometimes, especially when I am feeling small and lost and alone, I am comforted to no end to be reminded of such a tender word picture. Imagine, God doing that to me! (And God will cuddle you, too. If you need it. Or want it.)

Now, I have no problem seeing God as my Loving, Heavenly Parent. Sure, I did have parental issues in my past. I mean, issues with my earthly parents. But through years of prayer, meditation, spiritual direction and counseling, I’ve come to terms with most of them. Now, this clears the way for a loving, encouraging, caring relationship with my Heavenly Father. (Or if you prefer, God our Mother, as St. Julian of Norwich said several times in her excellent book Revelations of Divine Love.)

So, how was I kind today? I shared smiles and hellos with some preschoolers today, and they shared right back! Talk about a mutual smile maker! God, thank You for children, especially the children of Kids Academy. And the preschool teachers, too, who give so willingly and tenderly of themselves to these little ones, each day. Thanks, God!

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Showing Love—On a Bus?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, February 4, 2014

City Bus - Marin Dobson

City Bus – Marin Dobson

Showing Love—On a Bus?

I can get into the most intriguing conversations with people I meet, at a moment’s notice. My family rolls their (collective) eyes, sighs, and says, “Oh, Mom.” (Or simply sighs, in my husband’s case.)

I took the opportunity of a day off from work to go to the YMCA this morning, after bringing my son to school. I went into the women’s locker room to change into my workout clothes. Many of the same people were there, the usual denizens of the gym and the pool on a typical weekday morning. I took my time to change, relishing the extra time I had at my disposal.

A woman I had met a number of times before bustled up to a locker near me. We hadn’t seen each other for some days. After we said hello, she was reminded—internally—of the blog I’ve been writing. (Yes, this blog.) She turned to me as she changed and asked how the blog was going. “Fine!” I said, with a smile. She is involved with a non profit organization that assists women and children, and she wanted more information about the blog. So that some of the women could post suggestions about acts of kindness they are familiar with. I said that would be great, and thanked her so much! We talked a bit about how people could contact me. (Reminder: anyone can always contact me at the Facebook page A Year of Being Kind, or through my Twitter account @chaplaineliza, or through wordpress.com—just in case anyone was wondering.)

Another woman, a few lockers down, happened to be listening to us as we spoke about intentional acts of kindness and service. My friend went off to the gym upstairs as I began to talk to the second, older woman. She apologized for eavesdropping on my conversation, but I told her that was perfectly all right. Introduced myself, and the two of us immediately engaged in conversation, also! She told me about an act of service that instantly came to her mind, as soon as she heard about people being kind. “Giving people a smile. Just that simple action can help so much.”

I agreed, and told her about my smile (and I showed it to her, too—my smile just-sort-of happens, you understand). She smiled back, and we exchanged a few words about smiles. But then she went back to her story. She used to ride the bus here in our suburb to work. A bus driver on the route greeted everyone who got on his bus with a big smile, friendly and cheerful. As the woman told me about this driver, she obviously remembered him with fondness. A big smile came across her face. “I used to tell him that his bus ought to be called ‘the Happy Bus.’”

What a happy memory! And what a kind thing to do. A smile and a positive attitude may seem to be little things, but they can brighten a person’s day. They changed this woman’s day, this morning, just remembering. Thank God for small things—like smiles.

@chaplaineliza

Not One Hundred Percent

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, January 9, 2014

hospital patient

Not One Hundred Percent

I didn’t feel one hundred percent today. Sub par. Nevertheless, I dragged myself out of the house this morning. Once I had started the day and was outside, I felt better. (I ought to take my own advice, since that’s what I’ve said to my children for years when they don’t feel very chipper in the morning.)

I had the opportunity to be with a senior for a bit today. This senior needed some assistance and companionship, and I was happy to provide it. We didn’t talk too much, but this senior was content to simply sit with me there as a companion. I was very much aware of the ministry of presence. My being-with this senior was loving and giving of myself.

I know what the ministry of presence is, but some do not. Simply put, it is not a human doing, but instead becoming a human being. Simply being present with another person. I’ve been told by many people that my caring, less-anxious presence can be gentle and calming. Sometimes that’s what anxious or frightened or upset people need. And oftentimes, I provide it.

Several of my former supervisors mentioned this aspect of my character (my giftedness?). I think back to how I began this post, and connected it to a verbatim I wrote for my first chaplain internship. The verbatim concerned a senior couple at the hospital where I did my clinical rotation. However, one of the most distinctive things about that in-depth paper was one of the learning issues that I dealt with at the time. How do I manage to navigate and work when I don’t feel up to par? Not one hundred percent? I was not feeling quite chipper for the clinical day at the hospital, either. Yet God was still able to use me.

I did pray before I went to the floors for my clinical chaplain visits that day. It’s amazing. I wrote this particular verbatim almost ten years ago, yet I can still see and hear portions of the conversation and interaction in my mind. Upon reflection afterwards, I was awed by the openness of both the husband and the patient. God has given me an open heart and open ears to listen to people who are hurting. That’s a big reason why I went to seminary in the first place—to get further training in how to more intelligently, actively listen to people, and to walk with them as they go through difficult places in their lives. I am surprised at how little I did say to both of these dear seniors, reading over the verbatim just now. Yet the couple seemed really happy with my visit, and really wanted me to come back.

This situation in my verbatim was early in my experience as a chaplain. However, even then I used the ministry of presence. Today I come alongside of people, being with them. Sometimes I talk with them, and sometimes I’m quiet. For example, like I was with the senior I helped today. I tried to be a gentle, friendly companion, and I think I succeeded.

@chaplaineliza