My mom is a retired high school English teacher, and in her retirement, she works part-time at a well-established location of a pretty popular Texas-specific chain of market/gas station for highway travelers. If you are from Texas, you know this chain of stores by the multiple billboards with a certain mascot that beckons you to exit in so many miles for the cleanest restrooms and beaver nuggets (a human snack). Mom works to continue to make ends meet, and through this part-time job, she has made some great friends and meets a wide range of customers.
Recently though, she was unable to package beef jerky a certain way a customer demanded, so after this customer paid, he wadded up his receipt in his hand and threw it at her. As mom stood there stunned, embarrassed, and on the verge of tears, he turned and made his way out of the store.
I was so angry at this man whom I do not even know when mom told me the story. Angry because someone had been unkind to someone I love. And I thought, this is a great conversation starter for my children about showing kindness, spreading love, being a blessing to all whom we encounter.
And as much as I wanted to share the story with them about what happened to their Nani, I also realized that sometimes, especially for children, it’s hard to fully understand how one’s actions have affected someone else until it is a personal experience.
There can be so many conversations about being kind – how we are kind, what that looks like, how we can help others, nice words to say, how to just smile at those who seem sad. They all are worth something, and I do believe the words with which we fill up our children will stick and spark at some point in their lives.
But it is our actions, our every single day actions and interactions that really speak to children who watch our every move. And it is our reactions when we encounter the unkindness in our communities.
A dear friend commented to my mom that she hoped my mom had flashed her beautiful, bright smile and told that man to have a nice day. Kindness always wins, she had said. And even if our shock toward unkind actions does not give way to an immediate kind reaction, we, as followers of Jesus, can use our emotions to spread even more love into the world.
It’s okay to feel hurt, and it’s absolutely okay to feel angry. But, just as we tell our children, it’s not okay to intentionally hurt someone else because you may be hurting. We are to live in the garden, the garden where God created all things good and sees the goodness of his creation. And we need to walk each day with a kind smile, ready to reach out to our neighbor, our friends, our community, and those hurting. Acting and reacting with the goodness in each of us.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:3
How do you teach the children in your care to cultivate kindness?