Kindness. I must have been four or five years old when it happened. It happens to most kids at one time or another. I stepped on a piece of glass. I remember crying, probably more like screaming, when my father attempted to get it out of my foot.
“No, no, Dad! Don’t touch it!” I remember screaming.
“Lynne, sit still! I have to get it out!” my frustrated father replied.
“No! Not! You! I want Nana to do it!” At some point he must have resigned himself to the fact that if the glass were coming out of my foot, his mother was going to have to be the one to remove it, because my next memory was my Nana working on removing that piece of glass.
So you may be wondering what special skills my grandmother had – was she a surgeon? No. General practioner, then? No. Okay, how about a nurse? No. Any kind of first aid training at all that would make her qualified to remove offending glass from tiny, delicate foot? Not particularly.
But my Nana was trustworthy and kind. I knew that if it did hurt, then there was no other way to get it done. And she did get it done. I am pretty sure I cried, and she consoled, and it was all better regardless of whether it hurt because it was Nana.
I was reminded of my grandmother’s kindness as I worked on a talk I will be giving for a mother/daughter luncheon. If there were unkindness in her, it just didn’t show. At least that’s how it was in all the years I knew her. My father, well, he says my grandmother isn’t the same woman who raised him and he has muttered things about brooms and beatings – but if there is any truth at all to that, I would guess then he probably really, really deserved it.
I never saw her be unkind to anyone – even when people hurt her or the ones she loved. And more amazing, I never heard her say anything unkind to or about anyone. Oh, how I wish I could say that about myself! How I wish there were a kindness gene that got passed down, woven into my DNA, that would make me inherently kind; but, sadly for me, most times I have to work at being kind.
I wish my Nana were still alive, now that I have lived enough years to fully appreciate the depth and impact of her example, because I would love to ask her how she did it. When my grandmother died, she didn’t have a lot of stuff to leave her grandkids. No big bank accounts, or precious heirlooms. No fancy degrees or list of accomplishments. In fact, if I were to write her obituary today, I think I would say something like this:
Nana Rose is survived by many who loved her and she will be dearly missed. She was a loving woman, a great cook and she could be trusted to be kind.
I want to be trusted to be kind, don’t you? Now that’s a legacy.
A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth. Proverbs 11:16
Accountability. Why? I asked myself. Why couldn’t I just keep my mouth shut? I tried to justify my response by telling myself the following:
You know she is just so provocative.
You didn’t sleep well last night, or the night before.
If you didn’t have a headache you would have been more patient.
But there is no justification good enough. I just should have pulled out my spiritual duct tape and kept my mouth shut. You see, I was visiting family, people I love, people I want to see and visit and have in my life. People who, I believe, require a little bit of extra grace ~ just like I do sometimes.
After traveling and uneasy sleep and no good quiet time, I just wasn’t able to let the comment slide and I added my two cents. Not once, but twice ~ I don’t know, maybe even three times. Meanwhile, my poor husband is sitting silently between the heated discussion of two women he loves. Needless to say, I felt less than great about myself.
But the situation was a disaster waiting to happen. A California girl, stuck inside for too long because of a snow storm, no real sunshine or fresh air ~ I had reached the limit before I realized it. I didn’t realize that the storm outside was nothing compared to the turmoil inside. I needed to get out ~ in more ways than one.
“I’m going for a walk,” I told my husband. “The fresh air will do me good.” I can’t say he was sorry to see me go, and I don’t blame him. I bundled up as fast as I could and took to the streets. Literally. The sidewalks were buried in snow, so I had to walk in the street. I didn’t care. And I didn’t want to walk too far because, unlike in California where people curb their dogs, in the Midwest dogs are often allowed to run free. I love dogs, but not until we have been formally introduced. So I reduced my walk to the street where we were staying.
Up and down the street I paced, talking to myself as I went. It was a heated, ping pong conversation of “You know you shouldn’t…” with a quick volley back of “But she said this…or she is so that…”
I thought about my focus word for this week: accountability. I knew that regardless of the situation or the people in the situation, I was accountable for my own attitude. I knew this, but my attitude was still bad. So I kept walking.
There was a boy down the street shoveling snow off his driveway, home from school, no doubt, because of the snow. I must have passed him 20 times. I am sure he was beginning to suspect I was either crazy or a child abductor. I smiled and said “hi” and kept walking. After a while his father came out to help him. I’m not sure if he came out to really help or to be sure I really wasn’t some kind of threat. I’m sure other neighbors wondered about the crazy lady walking up and down the street. I didn’t care. The attitude of anger, bitterness and self-pity had blanketed my heart like the snow and I was determined to walk it off.
I got back to the house, still feeling the remnants of the storm inside me, not ready to go back in. I looked at the driveway covered with snow. It had been a long time since I had shoveled snow, and by long time, I could mean never.
I opened the front door.
“Jeff, when you get a second, can you set out a snow shovel?”
Scoop. Throw. Scoop. Throw. I pushed the shovel into the white snow with a vengeance. I heaved it over my shoulder with purpose, as though each shovelful represented a heap of bad attitude being tossed out. I scraped down to the cement, I shoveled one side to the other, I even shoveled the walkway. I like shoveling snow. The exercise felt great, the act of throwing the snow in a pile felt exhilarating, and when I was done I could see the fruits of my labor. That driveway was cleared of more snow and exposed more cement than any other driveway in the neighborhood. I finally sat down and admired my handiwork. The time had come to go inside.
It still wasn’t easy to keep my attitude in check and my tongue under control, but it was easier. I reminded myself that I was accountable ~ to God, to myself, to my husband ~ for my own attitude and words and I vowed to do better. I vowed to do better; but not on my own, because I know too well that on my own I am really not capable. Just ask my husband. But during my walk and shoveling the Lord reminded me that, with Him, I can do ALL things ~ even change a bad attitude. Thankfully, He also provided an endless supply of snow in case I need some extra help.
Appearances. They aren’t always what they seem. Don’t judge a book by its cover. All that glitters is not gold. I don’t know why writers get so upset about clichés; after all, they do convey a message in an effective manner. I guess it’s because they are just so…well, cliché. But back to appearances, what I am trying to say is you don’t always get what you pay for and what you see is not always what you get.
Years ago I had an acquaintance who was a fairly wealthy young woman. She drove a very nice Mercedes but also liked to dress very casually. Sometimes she would run her errands wearing jean shorts with holes in them and an old t-shirt; sometimes she might not even wear make-up. One day her car broke down within walking distance of a Mercedes dealership, so she walked over to talk to them about getting her car fixed. Who knows? She might have even been interested in buying a new car.
On this particular day, this gal was dressed very casually, her hair might have been less than coiffed and she told me she was definitely wearing that old t-shirt and pair of jean shorts. By the time she got to the lot, she might have even been a little sweaty and disheveled. When she walked onto the lot she was appalled at the way she was treated. No one came rushing over to see if she needed assistance, the sales force wasn’t fighting to see who would get to show her the latest Mercedes model; in fact, she could barely get anyone to talk to her. Are you surprised that the dealership didn’t get any of her business?
It’s human nature to make assessments about life based on what we see or hear and that is not always a bad thing. In fact, this ability to make judgments based on our assessment of people and our surroundings has probably kept us safe in many situations. Even so, I believe this is an area of life that requires self-examination from time to time.
Am I treating someone differently because I believe they are wealthy? Or lazy?
Am I giving preferential treatment to someone who looks like me, assuming they are like me?
Am I avoiding those I perceive to be very different from me?
Am I ignoring the ones that might make me feel embarrassed?
Hard questions to ask; harder yet to answer. When I find myself making mental assessments about people based on their appearances, I am often reminded of my wealthy young acquaintance. It doesn’t always keep me from falling into the trap of faulty first impressions, but sometimes it does. Have you ever found yourself in that trap? If so, let’s remind each other of how God feels when we fall into this way of thinking.
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4
Anti-aging. I am being actively recruited to join a radical movement. You probably are, too. I am not sure how I feel about it. On some days, I am completely on board, I grab my weapons of choice ~ face creams, supplements, scrubs ~ determined to beat the enemy before me. On other days, I am resigned to the fact that this is a movement that cannot succeed, in the end the battle cannot be won, no matter how hard anyone fights against it. I have to ask myself – do I really want to join the anti-aging movement anyway? And if so, at what cost?
There are some aspects of aging that I am less than excited about, like changes in my body shape and face. Changes in my biochemistry have altered once high energy levels and are interfering with a good night’s sleep. I can no longer ignore the fact that I am heading into a new season of life. But recruiters for the movement assure me that there are ways to stop this whole aging process; well, if not actually stop it, at least slow and mask it.
There are surgeries available for almost every aging body part ~ limbs, eyes, mouth, breasts, chins, jaws, butts, thighs, even body parts that no one sees and I am too embarrassed to mention. All of these problem areas can be lifted, tucked, smoothed, and tightened. If you have enough money and guts you can get all kinds of work done and have everyone asking, as though at a carnival guess your age game, how old do you think she is?
I am ashamed to admit I find myself engaged in this very catty game of comparison. And sometimes it makes the recruiter’s propaganda sound pretty good. In fact, I am not saying that I won’t, at some point and in some fashion, join the movement against the enemy known as aging; I don’t know. I certainly want to maintain good health as I age. I want to be physically fit and in good shape, to take care of my skin and teeth. I want to have a good level of energy and get the necessary amount of sleep to allow me to do all that God requires of me. And I might need some extra help to achieve the kind of health that will enable me to maintain my active work and personal life. So, at this time I can’t say…
But what I can say is that I want to start paying attention to the propaganda and my own focus on aging. Personally, I want my life, in this next season, to be rich in relationships, filled with satisfying activity, doing things that have eternal significance. I want to learn more, pray more, smile more, laugh more, see the good around me and give thanks more. I want to feel the swell in my heart when I think about my Savior and when I consider what is important to Him. Ironically, I don’t think He spends much time thinking about how droopy or tight, how wrinkly or smooth, how young or old my body looks ~ I think He spends much more time thinking about the condition and state of my heart, mind and soul. So instead, maybe the energy should be put into figuring out how to age well rather than engaging in a fight against inevitable aging.
The next question becomes, how shall we define “aging well”? As we age, do we want to be judged by the smoothness of our skin, or do we want to be judged by the content of our character? Hmmm…something to think about the next time the anti-aging crusaders make an appearance.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1Peter 3:3-4