Posts Tagged kindness

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: , , ,

Kindness Is Always in Order – Celebrate World Kindness Day

Principal Rex Whitcomb at Morningside Middle School in North Charleston, South Carolina told his students, “If you want to know how to have a successful school year, just be kind.” What great advice. Kindness is always in order.

After that, I wrote a little book, Random Acts of Kindness. In it I listed 110 simple acts of kindness that cost absolutely nothing to perform. Of course, the list can grow and grow. There are millions of people who are hungry for a simple act of kindness. All of us have many gifts to share that would brighten someone’s day.

November 13, is World Kindness Day. We can all participate by performing a simple act of kindness. Call a friend. Acknowledge a stranger. Write a thank you note. Thank a clerk. Leave a generous tip. I never tire of the advice attributed to John Wesley which I quoted in my book.

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.”

Dr. Arthur Caliandro, the late pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City said, “Be kinder than you think it necessary to be because the other person needs it more than you know.”

Tags: , , ,