I love Christmas. I love everything about it, the excitement, the decorations, putting up the tree, carols and crazy Christmas songs – including the favourite nursery rhymes such as ‘Santa Got Stuck Up the Chimney’ and ‘Rudolph the red nosed reindeer’, I love the excuse to sing my favourite song non-stop, White Christmas, the Bing Crosby version of course but most of all I love the traditions, the ones that my husband and I – well mostly me – created when our children were very small and the new ones that come along each year that we try on for size and if they fit our family we keep.
One of my favourite things about Christmas is advent. I love the preparations for Christmas, for the coming of the King, the light of the world. One of the traditions I particularly enjoy is making advent calendars for my three granddaughters, and I think it is one of their favourite things too. Mae was only three and a half when she reminded me not to forget to make her ‘present bag that hangs on the door’. This year though I have done things a little bit differently. I haven’t put a present in every pocket, some of them have a little slip of pink paper with an instruction written on them. These are ‘random acts of kindness’, simple things such as face timing someone you love to make them happy, smiling at everyone you see today, helping to set the table for dinner. There are seven of them in each advent calendar. Why have I done this? Because I believe that children are never too young to learn to be generous, to give something back, to show gratitude and to learn to be kind.
Recently, I’ve been reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It is about a year in the life of a little boy called August Pullman who has very severe facial differences, but more than that it is about how he touches and changes the lives of everyone he meets. Towards the end of the year, August is sitting listening to his teacher make a speech at the end of year graduation ceremony. Mr Tushman has this to say;
“When you reflect on this past year, I want you all to look at where you are now and where you’ve been. The best way to measure how you’ve grown is in what you’ve done with your time, how you’ve chosen to spend your days, and whom you’ve touched this year. That, to me is the greatest measure of success. There’s a wonderful line in a book by J. M. Barrie – the little white bird, he writes, ” shall we make a new rule of life… always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?”
Here Mr Tushman looked up at the audience. “Kinder than is necessary,” he repeated. “What a marvellous line. Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed. Why I love that line, that concept, is that it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness. And what does that mean? How is that measured? It’s not exactly quantifiable, is it? How do we know we’ve been kind? What is being kind anyway?”
In under the eye of the clock by Christopher Nolan, Joseph is a young man who faces extraordinary challenges. A boy in his class helps him, Nolan writes, “It was at moments such as these that Joseph recognised the face of God in human form. It glimmered in their kindness to him, it glowed in their keenness, it hinted in their caring, indeed it caressed in their gaze.” “It glimmered in their kindness to him. Such a simple thing, kindness. A nice word of encouragement given when needed, an act of friendship, a passing smile. What I want to impart to you is an understanding of the value of that simple thing called kindness. If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognise in every one of you, the face of God.” He paused and shrugged. “Or whatever politically correct spiritual representation of universal goodness you happen to believe in,” he added quickly, smiling.
Galatians 5 v22:23 lists nine “fruits of the spirit” one of which is kindness. The scripture says there are no laws against these fruits – or attributes – they are the physical manifestations of a life changed by Jesus Christ, and we can know each other as Christians by recognising these gift in one another. We can see the face of God in each other through our acts of kindness to one another.
There’s a meme that my sister regularly puts on Facebook; it says be kind, you never know what other people are struggling with, and we don’t. Just because someone doesn’t tell you about the difficult stuff they’re going through doesn’t mean they are not going through difficult stuff. But that’s not the only reason to be kind. Be kind just because! Be kind because someone was kind to you. Be kind because you are feeling happy and you want someone else to feel happy Be kind because you are feeling sad and you don’t want someone else to feel sad. Be kind because you are a kind person.
Be kind everyday. Kindness is for life, not just for Christmas. Take every opportunity to be kind. Look for opportunities to be kind. Be kind at home with your loved ones, be kind at play with your friends, be kind at work with your colleagues, be kind at work with your clients. Always look for the kind thing to do, always say the kind thing. Show people you love them be being kind so that somewhere, someday, someone may recognise in you the face of God. Amen.