A tree grows in our sanctuary. Actually, it is pretty barren right now, with a single paper leaf dangling on it. This is our “Kindness Tree.” During the season of Lent we will be talking with our children and congregation about how we live out Jesus’ command to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” Each week we will add another leaf to celebrate acts of kindness. And together we will wonder – How do we live kindness? How do we share kindness?
In the midst of the excessively nasty rhetoric in the news and social media these days, it is important for the church to offer another voice, an alternate tone, and a different viewpoint. There are few public figures that I as a parent would lift up to my children as viable, admirable role models. There are words and phrases spewed across the airwaves that we would not allow our Sunday School children to repeat. And there are attitudes and hateful opinions that contradict the Gospel of love and new life that we cherish.
What’s a church to do?
We can offer a new conversation. We can encourage our children to listen to the life-giving voice of the One who created them and loves them unconditionally. We can be inspired by Jesus who always reached out to the outcasts, shared meals with the shunned, and healed the forgotten, the lonely, and the hurting. We can try to follow his footsteps.
We can live kindness.
Every week during Lent we will listen to stories and examples of people who make a difference in someone’s life. Our role model will be the Good Samaritan who had the wisdom to recognize a beaten, abused man left on the roadside as a beloved child of God. The Samaritan was himself part of a reviled group of people; popular opinion labelled him as a subhuman who should be feared.
The Samaritan didn’t allow others to define him. He didn’t listen to their narrative and wasn’t swayed by their opinion. Instead, he lived his truth.
He shared loving kindness with a stranger.
Sometimes people talk about “giving up” something for Lent and it may be that weaning ourselves away from the endless negative chatter would be a good start. But perhaps adding something to our lives would be even more important.
- We can speak words of kindness.
- We can share acts of thoughtfulness.
- We can remind one another – friends and strangers – that we are created in the image of God.
- We can be gentle with one another.
- We can encourage each other.
- We can wonder if a person we encounter is going through a difficult time.
- We can extend grace.
Every day between now and Easter, let’s make someone’s life a bit better.
As Aesop reminds us, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”