A Year of Kindness
A priest made a suggestion the day after New Year's about resolutions. Most people, he pointed out, make a list of what they want to do or stop doing, "and by Saturday they throw it all out and say they'll do it next year."
Perhaps we can keep it simple. Forget such a list, he said. Instead, in addition to other goals, make your resolution to be kind in some way to some person every day. Somehow, show an act of mercy, of charity. The ripple effect from that can spread through the world (and into your eternity).
There is the example, said the priest (who at ninety has seen his share of new years), of a woman he knew who made precisely the "kindness" vow and then found herself stuck in a supermarket line behind a woman with a clutch of coupons.
It was taking forever. She was growing angry -- forgetting herself -- forgetting her vow. Finally, she realized what was happening and switched herself into a mood of kindness by looking to the woman and complimenting her on what a great job of shopping she had done.
The woman beamed. A huge smile dominated her face. She was elated that someone noticed how hard she had worked at this -- at collecting just the right combination of coupons! It made her day.
And she probably then made someone else's day, or at least lifted the moods of those around her. This is what mystics mean by the ripple effect.
"Children," says today's Mass reading, "let no one deceive you. The person who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. Whoever sins belongs to the Devil, because the Devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the Devil. No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot sin because he is begotten by God. In this way, the children of God and the children of the Devil are made plain; no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:7).
When we die, we'll be stunned at the good and bad "ripple effects" we generated. We'll see how many lost opportunities there were -- opportunities for kindness, in the midst of temptation for aggravation. We'll see how instead of hovering over someone else's failings or inadequacies, rudeness or ignorance, we should have prayed for the improvement and success of the person.
Take that into 2019: kindness, in this era when just the opposite is practiced everywhere we turn. "Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate," notes a writer. "Affection, gentleness, warmth, concern, and care are words that are associated with kindness. While kindness has a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength.
"Celebrating someone you love, giving honest compliments, sending an email thanking someone, telling someone how s/he is special to you, helping an elderly neighbor with yard work or food, taking a photo of someone and sending it to the person, sharing homemade food, refusing to gossip, and donating old clothing and things you don't need are all ideas about how to practice kindness. Kindness is a willingness to full-heartedly celebrate someone else's successes."
True men are not harsh. True men are not insulting. True men do not gloat over the failings of others. True men -- and women -- love.
Make this the Year of Kindness. Make this the Year of Love.