Posts Tagged kindness

How not-so-random acts of kindness from strangers – Rev. Dr. Molly Marshall

transformed my latest air travel odyssey

Molly T. Marshall

One thing any experienced traveler learns is that other travel veterans can always trump your “worst trip ever” stories. I just endured one of those “eventful” overseas flight experiences, but this journey also introduced me to strangers who offered this Baptist theologian a few reminders about kindness and compassion.

My annual pilgrimage to Myanmar did not have an auspicious start. I left Kansas City early Friday morning headed for Seattle, then Seoul and then ultimately Yangon. Fog shrouded Seattle and planes could not land, so our flight was diverted to Eugene, Oregon, where we sat in the plane nearly four hours waiting for fuel and a landing time.

Trying not to be too anxious, reluctantly relinquishing control over the logistics, I kept my eyes on my app. Sure enough, I received notification that my flight to South Korea had taken off without me.

One of the flight attendants demonstrated impressive emotional intelligence. She came by with water and empathy in generous servings, and she helped us see the humor in our situation. Who would not want to spend time viewing the surrounding mountains through the small windows of our plane?

At this point I wondered if I should have heeded the admonition of friends who thought perhaps this trip to Myanmar was ill-conceived as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread. With my usual stubbornness, I said all will be well.

Indeed, all would be well, thanks to the kindness of strangers who use their professions as a place of caring and service.

Arriving in Seattle, I headed to an airline club to get rescheduled, if possible. Many had missed connections, and agents were pressed to fulfill our requests. A young woman of Asian descent took up my case and worked for several hours to get me re-booked. She told me to go get some food; she would find me when she had completed the task.

It takes fortitude to do methodical work pleasantly when you are facing a long line of anxious, weary and impatient customers clamoring for attention. I had plenty of time to observe her as I spent the next eight hours awaiting my flight.

“It was as if an angelic messenger had been sent my way.”

Flying back to Detroit on a red-eye would allow me to catch a midday flight to Seoul; it was my best option. Again, with a long stint in an airline club (I’m thankful for the thousands of frequent flyer miles that qualify me for this amenity), I met a remarkable person. As one of the attendants who collects the cups and glasses and newspapers of the guests in the travel lounge, this tall, African American woman circled around to check on me several times.

She asked what I was doing, and I told her a bit of my travel challenges. She said God had placed her there to work so that she could notice God’s people and encourage them. While others may render her invisible as she goes about her routine tasks, she is perceptively observing those who come through her section of the club.

I teared up at her kindness and witness of faith, and she offered a prophetic word as if she could peer into my very soul. Sensing that I was burdened about some matters, she firmly said, “God has got this.”

She disappeared to complete other tasks, and I could not find her when I needed to leave for my flight. It was as if an angelic messenger had been sent my way; and, of course, God had her busy noticing and encouraging some other inconvenienced traveler.

When I arrived in Seoul, I met another ministering spirit. The usually bustling Incheon Airport felt a bit like a ghost town as fear of the virus has slowed travel dramatically. Everyone was wearing masks, trying not to get too near anyone else, and viewing others with furtive suspicion.

Once again, I had to spend a couple of hours waiting in an airline club. Upon entering, I encountered a mask-free, smiling young Korean man with a most hospitable attitude. His capacity to welcome guests, anticipate their needs and seem genuinely interested in each was contagious. I asked him why he served as he did, and he said it was because of his faith in Jesus. He wanted to be like him in how he treated people.

Finally, there is no greater kindness than to be met by a friend at the end of a long journey. By now, my travel had lasted about two-and-a-half days. Arriving in Yangon, there was a flurry of activity as a medical agent took each passenger’s temperature, and an extra step was added as a medical form was examined prior to going through customs.

Emerging from the chaos of collecting baggage and the throngs of persons awaiting their passengers, I searched the crowd for my Myanmar Institute of Theology colleague. Soon he was by my side helping me thread our way to find our driver.

“You must be tired,” he said, acknowledging that I was arriving a day later than originally planned. His kind words and pastoral attention reminded me yet again how important our caring is in helping others manage their challenges.

During the first week of this Lenten season, I have been the beneficiary of unanticipated, but not-so-random acts of kindness from sisters and brothers who are my fellow travelers in the compassionate way of Jesus.

I wonder what the trip home has in store.

 

Tags: , , ,

Humility, Kindness, and Welcome: Hard but Biblical Calling – David Jordan*

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor. (Proverbs 21:21)

There is, in the American character, an exceedingly hopeful and optimistic spirit. I believe righteousness and kindness are embedded in the hopes and dreams of this nation. Though sometimes twisted in irrational ways or hidden behind today’s political climate, we continue to share, as Americans, a desire to welcome the stranger, to see the rejected of other lands as a new and potentially vital part of our own. Yet, because of various pressures and difficulties, that vision — that hopeful trajectory of a positive future — is threatened. In some areas of our country where crime and illegal immigration have appeared to increase in tandem, it is tempting to leap to associative conclusions.

The complicated dynamics of our current time should not be minimized, nor should the legitimate concerns of the many caught up in the maelstrom of confusing policies and inappropriate behaviors on all sides diminish the power and necessity of welcoming the stranger. At the bedrock of our nation’s character (and inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty) are these words from Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

These sentiments correspond well to what Jesus intoned in the face of harsh opposition as he continued to reinforce: “Love the alien as you love yourself; for you were once aliens in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).

The tendency for many, and the constant temptation for all, is to blame problems on those who are new or different or those we simply don’t understand. Yet, consistently in this country and throughout Christian history, we remember the legacy of the stranger, the heroic actions of the unwanted, the new insights and contributions of the disregarded and even despised.

Let us “pursue righteousness and kindness and find life and honor” and live out biblical wisdom — together — as we seek those new insights so necessary for our spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth. Watch carefully around you today — at the store, in the office, around the neighborhood, on the news — and look for positive signs of compassion, openness, courage and new insights about living together in harmony. And as you do, consider another passage from the Bible:

But this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit (Isaiah 66:2).

Just as the Statue of Liberty represents the spirit of human hope and the ideal of this nation and democracy, this verse from Isaiah is a bold reminder of our biblical hope — and spiritual goal. God’s expectation is for our humility to exceed our suspicion. Though tempted to criticize and look down on those not in our circle of friends, the biblical calling is to bless, welcome and empower “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).

Now, let’s look at the full text of Emma Lazarus’ poem. She, by the way, was from a Jewish immigrant family originating from Germany and Portugal. Notice in her sonnet the echo of this biblical theme of humility and welcome while alluding in comparison to the ancient Colossus of Rhodes:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Let us together, with genuine humility, ponder what this means. In our churches and places of worship, and in our nation as a whole let us deliberate with mutual respect: How wide is the door? How humble and contrite is our spirit? Consider the role of a Christian regarding the various social issues of our day. The ongoing controversies with immigration, how we respond to refugees, the emotional debates surrounding LGBTQ concerns, relationships with the Muslim community, concerns about the those without homes — these and many other issues remain highly charged within and outside the Christian community. Without a coherent and well-articulated message from active citizens who are also committed Christians, all of us will continue to struggle.

Let’s face it, humility, kindness, righteousness and welcoming the stranger — these are tough in today’s political and social climate. They are also very biblical, and remain as necessary today as they have ever been. Let us work together and rise to the challenge.

Lord, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
— Reinhold Niebuhr

*David Jordan is teaching pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Tags: , , ,

Welcome Anaheim California and Mayor Tait

Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim and the City Council issued a proclamation declaring Say Something Nice Day on June 1. Mayor Tecklenburg of Charleston sent him a copy of my book, Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter at Work. They had met at the National Mayor’s Conference.

Mayor Tait campaigned on a platform of kindness. He declared Anaheim the City of Kindness. Say Something Nice Day fit beautifully with that theme. When I met with Mayor Tecklenburg and Mrs. Tecklenburg they were both enthusiastic about that idea. Michelle Hill in Mayor Tecklenburg’s office and Loretta Day in Mayor Tait’s office were both extremely helpful. I received a beautifully executed proclamation from Anaheim signed by Mayor Tait and all of the council members.

Little by little, we are making progress. The harsh rhetoric that is so prevalent in our national discourse is taking a toll on our national character and the lives of individuals.

We would welcome your help in persuading your city to endorse Say Something Nice Day on June 1 each year and/or your church to celebrate Say Something Nice Sunday on the first Sunday in June.

Words matter. In Charleston we have witnessed firsthand the power of words to heal.

Tags: , , ,

A Push For Civility

Tuesday was a great day for the cause of civility. Not only did Mayor John Tecklenburg of the City of Charleston issue a proclamation declaring June first as Say Something Nice Day, Charleston County Council following the leadership of Chairman Vic Rawls did the same. Mayor Keith Summey of the City of North Charleston issued a similar proclamation last week.

This is the 12th year of the event which started when Mayor Summey issued the first proclamation in 2006. Chairman Victor Rawls made reference to the beginning in the proclamation. He went on to say, “Charleston County urges its citizens to fight against unkindness and the lack of politeness that sometimes dominates society in the hopes that one day of pleasantness will grow until people are nice to each other every day.”

First Baptist School of Charleston conducted its first Say Something Nice Essay Contest as did Harborview Presbyterian Church.

Tags: , , ,