We are a country in need of a double dose of kindness. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this past month. The following article came to mind from Art Buchwald that I’ve had in my files for years.
Love and the Cabbie by columnist Art Buchwald
I was in New York the other day and rode with a friend in a taxi. When we got out of the cab, my friend said to the driver, “Thank you for the ride. You did a super job of driving this cab!” The taxi driver was stunned for a second. Then he said, “Are you a wise guy or something?”
“No, my dear man, and I’m not putting you on. I admire the way you keep cool in heavy traffic. Not many cab drivers are able to do that. I’m glad I rode in your cab today!”
“Yeah, sure,” the driver said and drove off.
“What was that all about?” I asked. “I am trying to bring love back to New York City,” he said. “I believe it’s the only thing that can save the city.”
“How can one person save New York?”
“It’s not one person. I believe I have made that taxi driver’s day. Suppose he has twenty fares. He’s going to be nice to those twenty fares because someone was nice to him. Those fares will in turn be kinder to their employees or waiters, or even their own families. Eventually, the goodwill could spread to at least a thousand people. Now that isn’t bad, is it?”
“But you are depending on that taxi driver to pass your goodwill on to others.”
“I’m not depending on it”, my friend said. “I’m aware that the system isn’t fool proof, so I might say something nice to ten different people today. If, out of ten, I can make three happy, then eventually I can indirectly influence the attitudes of three thousand or more.”
“It sounds good on paper,” I admitted, “but I’m not sure it works in practice.”
“Nothing is lost if it doesn’t. It didn’t take any of my time to tell that man he was doing a good job. If it fell on deaf ears, so what? Tomorrow there will be another taxi driver I can try to make happy.”
“You’re some kind of a nut,” I said.
“That shows how cynical you’ve become. Take postal workers, for instance. The reason so many of them hate their work is because no one is telling them that they are doing a good job.”
“But they aren’t doing a good job.”
“They’re not doing a good job because they don’t believe anyone cares if they do or not. Why shouldn’t someone say a kind word to them?”
We were walking past a structure in the process of being built and passed by five workman eating their lunch. My friend stopped and said, “That’s a magnificent job you men have done. It must be difficult and dangerous work.” The workmen eyed my friend suspiciously. “When will it be finished?”
“June,” a man grunted. “Oh, that is really impressive. You must be very proud.”
We walked away. I said to him, “I haven’t seen anyone like you since The Man from LaMancha “
“When those workmen digest my words, they will feel better for it. Somehow the city will benefit.”
“But you can’t do this alone,” I protested. “You’re just one man.”
“The most important thing is not to get discouraged. Making people in the city become kind again is not an easy job, but if I can enlist other people in my campaign….”
We continued walking down the street.
“You just smiled at a very plain-looking woman,” I said to my friend.
“Yes, I know,” he replied. “And if she’s a schoolteacher, her class is going to be in for a fantastic day.”
Jesus was a walking act of kindness - most of the time.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he was visiting Peter’s mother in law.
When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever, he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick.
The disciples objected when children were brought to him to lay his hands on them and pray. He told them:
“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
He reached out to a samaritan woman at a well, someone his culture said he wasn’t supposed to associate with, and to Matthew, a hated tax collector, who he invited to join him, and then sat with many tax collectors and sinners for dinner.
He cured a bent over woman on the sabbath, and a hemorrhaging woman who wasn’t to be touched, unclean lepers, a centurion’s servant, a paralytic, blind men and those possessed with demons, often with authorities or others objecting to his acts of kindness:
“You’re not supposed to cure on the sabbath. What are you doing eating with sinners and women of ill repute?”
He told parables depicting acts of kindness, like the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the farmer who paid the same wage to all of his workers, regardless of how long they had worked.
We can’t touch someone and cure them from disease, a kind word or simple act of kindness can change a person’s mood, or even their life. Paul and his followers understood this as we hear in Proverbs and his letters to those early Christians: (invite volunteers to read)
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.
1 Corinthians 13:4,13
Love is patient, love is kind… And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
For over a month now, stories of kindness kept showing up, on the radio, in emails, TV, magazines, starting with the NPR series Kindness Works on WBUR’s Morning Edition. Check it out there, or online.
I find that other people’s stories remind me of my own.
On my way into Boston on a crowded T last week, two different young women offered me their seat. My first response was: “Do I look that old?” I had to pause a minute and realize that they were offering a random act of kindness. By refusing the seat I was denying them the opportunity to perform that act of kindness. Remember that, when someone reaches out to you and you refuse their help or generosity.
The simplest thing can make a difference in someone’s day. A clergy friend of mine recognized John Dorhauer, the President and General Minister of the UCC, at a reception for clergy at the interfaith service last Friday in Boston. She went up and enthusiastically told him how much she appreciated his words at our annual meeting this summer. He was smiling from ear to ear when I heard him tell her “Thanks, you’ve made my day!”
Years ago, when I was a poor student in seminary, I was driving to my internship, crossing a bridge to Napa. When I got up to the toll booth, I was told the car ahead of me had paid my toll. It made my day. I’ve never forgotten that act of kindness, from a total stranger, who never would have the opportunity to thank.
You may have heard the story from Scottsburg Indiana last Father’s Day. A regular customer at a McDonald's started a 167-driver "pay it forward" chain of good deeds at the drive-thru window.
McDonald’s cashier Hunter Hostetler recalled, “She saw a dad in the van behind her … He had like four kids in the car,” She was like, ‘I’m going to pay for the father behind me, and I want you to tell him happy Father’s Day.’”
Upon hearing of the woman's good deed, the dad then paid for the next few cars behind him, and each car kept the process going. Hostetler said, “I had people telling me, ‘No it’s going to stop here, it’s going to stop at 100.
But, between 8:30 p.m. and midnight, every car paid for the ones behind it,
Many customers even paid for meals that were more expensive than their own. Only once did a customer threaten to break the streak, but the staff pooled $27 to keep it going.
Hearing these stories, I’ve become more aware of my own actions and words. (Invite others’ stories)
Someone gave me this bumper sticker years ago. I can’t remember who. I’ve never put a bumper sticker on my car, but I kept it in my office. I got to thinking this week, it’s time. Maybe it will encourage others sitting behind me in a traffic jam on the Mass Pike.
(Invite everyone to take a Kindness Rock from the altar and write a kind message on it, then return it to the altar. Well place them outside with a sign inviting people to take one for themselves or others)