Monday, September 22, 2008

Chapter 7 - The Rewards of Kindness

God is a God of kindness, so it is fitting that we, as his people, display kindness to others as well. When God proclaims his name to Moses, it is "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...". When Micah tells the people of Judah what God requires, it is that they "do justice", and "love kindness" and "walk humbly" with him. And when the Pharisees object to Jesus' lifestyle, he says to them: "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'"

Kindness is crucial!

As Carolyn Mahaney says, I think that most of the time it is my family, as the people closest to me, who suffer most from my lack of kindness. I could relate to what she said at the beginning of the chapter about being shocked at the level of hostility I've felt and manifested towards my own family members (p.118)! I thought Carolyn's list of hindrances to kindness (anger, bitterness, judging) were very insightful - I think all 3 have these are issues that I need to work on! I also thought it was great to have some concrete ideas of how to be kind to our husbands and children - hey, if anything I could have done with a few more of these!

So I was on board at page 128 when we were reminded that "this reputation for goodness begins at home". I was disappointed, though, that the specific suggestions in this chapter stopped there. The text in 1 Tim 5 that Carolyn cross-references is a reminder that the widow who has "a reputation for good works" is one who "has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work". (The word translated as "kind" in Titus 2 is the same as the word for every "good" work in 1 Tim 5). The circles of 1 Tim 5:9 seem to radiate outward from the children to the house-guests to the saints and the afflicted; it's about "every good work".

Nor does kindness beyond the family always need to be at the expense of kindness within the family. There are limits, of course, on how much my kindness can extend beyond the front gate without becoming neglect of my children and a hindrance to my husband, but I also suspect I am being kinder to my kids if I can teach them how to live out God-fearing lives where they are learning how to love the 'widow and orphan', to 'extend their hands to the poor', and to welcome the lonely into the family home. In her book, Hidden Art, Edith Schaeffer writes:
Often one is asked, "How does one get children to have compassion and love for others?" One important way is by demonstrating love and compassion in action, not just talking about it. I do not mean organisational action but human care, in taking time, thought, energy, imagination, and creativity to fulfil some total stranger's need. Nothing can be be given in a 'course of study' which can substitute for the day to day observation on the part of the children in the home of a mother or father who truly treat human beings as human, and not machines. It is of course costly, in time and energy. "What a waste if time!" some might remark. But the 'waste' is what brings forth the most amazing results, many of which are hidden from us in this life, results in others living in and sharing the home; and results in the unknown strangers too.
So, instead of discussing the (very helpful!) ideas in this chapter for showing kindness within the family, I thought we might brainstorm some small ways to show kindness to others beyond the family (even when you are at the stage of life where you have young kids with you at home). Here are a few easy and obvious ideas for starters:

- Invite people into your house - particularly (in the light of what Jesus says in Luke 14) those who can't invite you back.
- Make a meal for someone who needs it. You need to cook for your family anyway, why not add a little extra? You can even involve your kids in dropping it off to the person, and explain to them why you are doing it.
- Mind someone else's kids - again, especially the single mum who can't easily 'pay you back'.
- Visit an elderly or house-bound person with your kids. As well as being a blessing to the older person (the company of little kids can be delightful, on a good day!!) it can also be a great lesson for the kids in how to talk to people from another generation, how to be polite and self -controlled etc... (Use some discretion here, though - don't make your elderly neighbours the victims of an overly-ambitious kindness-training regime for your kids!).

Other ideas? I'd love to hear what works for you...


Jean said...

Thanks, Nic, my thoughts on this were very similar to yours. Again, the Proverbs 31 woman is a wonderful example of what you say: kindness / good works at home, and outside the home, the second always not undermining but supporting the first.

Sharon said...

We take a box of home-grown lemons for a walk down our street and give them away to anyone who says yes at their door. It's a great very non-confrontational way of getting to know who lives where, breaking the ice and perhaps beginning conversations that will be continued at another time. It is also a little kindness in a time when people appreciate any extra free thing.

Offering childcare to neighbours who need it for emergencies or even regularly can be a great help to them as well as having benefits for our own children.

One of the kindest things my friends have done for me & my husband was to offer to swap babysitting so we could go on date nights. They are kind to us and we are kind right back but it is still an amazingly helpful ministry to couples who could not afford to pay a babysitter (or would have to hire two at the same time because four kids 5 & under is a bit much for one uni-age student to handle!)

One of the sweetest kindnesses I've done with my kids was when we had workmen making a footpath at the bottom of our street. We went down to watch and Joshua got all enthusiastic and later asked me how we could thank them properly for the footpath. We ended up taking the workmen pikelets the next morning for morning tea and the men were all overwhelmed at people actually expressing thankfulness for their work instead of complaining at the inconvenience. This simple act of kindness made a BIG impression.

~ Sharon from Equip Academy

EQUIP Book Club said...

From Carmelina...

here are 2 ways we often forget but which I think can be a way of showing kindness to people:

1. sending a card/note - with email and blogging we can forget this art, but whenever I send cards, I am always surprised at what a wonderful reaction I get from people - they feel loved and thought about. $2 shops are a great source (as I am not one of those people who is gifted at making cards and the time and effort of home cards would mean I would rarely send them!) A card can saying anything "I am thinking and praying for you", "I thank God for bring you to our church family" etc plus it's always lovely to include verses from the Bible (and pictures from children are always met with delight!). I leave a box of cards, a book of stamps and pens in my kitchen and as I think of people, I write and send them (and the exercise walking to the post box never goes astray!)

2. a telephone call - I often do this as I'm doing the mindless job of unpacking and packing the dishwasher. People never seem to mind the noise of the dishes in the background. And a quick call to say "How are you?" or "I noticed you were looking sad today ..." or "How did that test go?" is a wonderful kindness that we can show when we can't go out because we need to be home with sick children or because the children are in bed. And believe it or not, praying with people over the phone gets a better reception (no pun intended!) than we expect. In 10 years of doing this, I've only ever had 1 person say no.

Look forward to hearing more from you.

Love Carmelina

Nicole said...

Great ideas! I was reminded just the other day how much a letter can mean to people. Jacob sent a letter to my grandfather (who is failing and suffers severe depression), and I really didn't expect any sort of response. But according to my mum, it meant a lot to him and he has even sent a letter back (which is a BIG deal for my grandfather).