In our busy world, it is easy to focus on our own feelings and needs, and overlook those of others.

We may dismiss the circumstances and feelings of family, friends and strangers whose paths cross ours each day.  A “Be kind” movement, and “Kindness Week” in schools, is trendy, but this is not a new message. Scripture tells us in Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..” (ESV)

With my sister’s permission I’m sharing an article she wrote several years ago, for her company newsletter; a real-life example of the lack of patience and understanding.

“Look Beyond the Obvious” by Maria Timberlake

I talked to my dad the other day. He was telling me about a recent trip to the grocery store. He expressed frustration because he couldn’t find several things on his shopping list. Then he accidentally got in the express line, despite having a full load of groceries. After he got done filling out his check, he realized he’d forgotten the rotisserie chicken for dinner. So, he left the line and went to get his chicken. By the time he made it back, the other people in line were more than a bit upset.

After I got off the phone, I had a brief chuckle picturing my dad puttering around the IGA.  But then I got sad because the clerk and the people in line just didn’t know. They didn’t know that through 45 years of marriage my dad probably never did more than pick up a few items at the store, because my mom took care of the shopping. . . .They didn’t know that his wife of 45 years had been diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy and just went though her first chemotherapy treatment. They didn’t know that my dad is on 13 medications a day and has fought major health challenges, never even contemplating the possibility of my mom dying before he does. They didn’t know that he was a college professor, museum director, noted art historian and author, the loving father of four and grandfather of four.  They didn’t look beyond the obvious.

No, they were impatient with the bumbling, fat old man holding up the line. My wonderful dad who is trying so hard to deal with the crummy hand of cards he just was dealt. Just trying to do the grocery shopping for my mom.

The point is, we need to remind ourselves to look beyond the obvious. Maybe the store clerk isn’t being cranky to ruin our day. Maybe she is a young mom with a colicky new baby. Maybe she is coping with an alcoholic spouse that she loves but doesn’t know how to help. Maybe… well, there are dozens of possibilities.  So now I will challenge myself to look beyond the obvious and not prejudge, to try to be patient, to try to help, care and understand. I hope you will share my challenge.”

Will you accept my sister’s challenge? It is truly the challenge given to all of us by our Lord.  It does not always involve grand gestures; just a smile in passing, holding a door for someone, waiting patiently in line, or chatting with the store clerk. Your kindness can make a positive difference in someone else’s day, and yours as well.  So keep in mind Paul’s message in 1 Timothy 6:11 “…Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”(ESV)  Let’s start today!

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