Be Kind

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? — Micah 6:8 (NRSV)

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. — Martin Luther King, Jr. 1968

Today, November 13, is World Kindness Day. Click here to learn more about the movement’s history and intent. I am thankful for this timely reminder about the importance of kindness in our world–on allĀ  levels.

If you live in the United States, and unless you are completely off-grid and out-of-touch, you’ve heard some of the shrill cries and seen the petty accusations being hurled cavalierly about in cyberspace and in the media. It never fails to amaze me how absolutely awfully we can treat one another in our quest to be “right.”

I have seen some of the ugliest, mean-spirited, vitriolic memes and posts on Facebook in the past weeks and months, not to be outdone, of course, by some terribly toxic tweets. Good and faithful folk were sputtering and clattering like pressure cookers about to blow. Most assuredly it would seem that our country is headed straight off a real (not just fiscal) cliff in a metaphorical hand basket accompanied by the cranked-up strains of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”

Thankfully, things are never as dire as the pundits and extremists would have us believe, and I strongly believe that the powers of good will always prevail. Sure, there’s trouble in River City–and just about everywhere else–but there’s a lot of really good stuff happening, too. You just have to look for it because you probably will not see it on the evening news.

All major world religions stress kindness as an attribute to which adherents should aspire. It may be expressed in different words or ways, but the message is clear. We are to treat one another with lovingkindness. We are to love our neighbors–both those we agree with and those we find abhorrent. I’ve included one of my favorite passages of scripture and a favorite quote. Yes, the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice, and kindness is the weight that helps us bend toward justice and a better world for all.

When we are kind to one another, we see each other through more compassionate eyes. We are more willing to listen, and not just listen but really hear and empathize with one another. When we are kind, we see a fellow human, a beloved child of the Creator, and one whose journey is equally as valid as our own rather than an opponent who is to be squashed like a stink bug.

So, dear reader, how have you practiced kindness today? What one small thing can you do to reach across a divide and make a difference? How can you accomplish one small thing to help heal this beautiful yet broken world?

Blessings on your continued thanks-living journey!

PS: Don’t forget to comment if you want to have your own copy of I’ve got Some Lovin’ to Do, Volume One of The Doris Diaries, edited by Julia Park Tracey.

Photos by ~maja*majika and sweetonveg. Thanks!

A Tech Sabbath . . . Can She do It?

Technology keeps us instantly connected–no doubt about it. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and texting all serve an important function to keep our digital plates spinning and connections with one another intact. The immediacy is both blessing and curse. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I’m more than just a little bit addicted to this flow of information and seeming connectedness. Even when my family goes on vacation, either my spouse or I haul along a laptop and pray for WiFi. To be fair, as writers we do a lot of web research. Vocational concerns aside, do I really need this kind of connection to live thankfully and fully? This is a question I’ll be exploring during my mini-vacation this long weekend. Am I really addicted to this web of connection, and can I disconnect at will without going into spasms of techno-withdrawal?

My youngest daughter is about to exceed her data plan for her iPhone with five days remaining in this month’s billing period. She blames it on the fact that she no longer has a computer that works. When I suggested that she simply not use the data features until the next billing period, she looked at me like I had one eye and three heads. However in the world can one not be “connected” to the world?

A recent study published by the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, shows that being cut off from e-mail at work reduces stress and increases focus. Imagine that! Click here for more information about the study and a link to the report (downloadable PDF).

Why is it so difficult to disconnect? What am I afraid I will be missing? The world will go on without my participation in social media. If someone really wants to contact me, we do have a land line with an answering machine. Plus, I am on vacation. That means I am supposed to disconnect from work and the regular cycles of my daily routine.

So, to that end, I am resolved not to check my e-mail or Facebook until my vacation ends on Monday. And, no, that does not mean that I will be logged on at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning to see what I might have missed. It’s only a weekend right? What could be so tough about that?

I’ll let you know next week how this little experiment goes. Until then, enjoy some pre-planned postings and keep living thankfully one moment at a time.

Photo by photosteve 101 used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!


A mind is a terrible thing to waste. –slogan of the UNCF

Minds are wasted through lack of opportunity, as the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) so aptly recognized in its famous fund-raising and awareness slogan. Yet minds are also wasted through abuse, neglect, and the squandering of gifts.

As a teacher I am always concerned about the development of the mind and about nurturing a passion for knowledge and wisdom. Truly, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. The mind is a gift, a part of the body not to be taken for granted, intimately interwoven with the spirit/soul that makes us human.

So tell me, are you mindful of your mind? Do you attend to its care and feeding? How do you nourish your intellect, and how do you attend to its companions of soul and spirit?

I am concerned that we in the United States have become somewhat soft when it comes to mental calisthenics. We are a nation that expects entertainment, and that thinks and responds in increasingly short “sound bytes.”

No, I don’t dislike social media; in fact, I use it fairly extensively. Twitter, Facebook, and other similar formats offer much of value and definitely have their place. What concerns me is that lose something if we become completely absorbed in the “newest and latest.”

What happens when our political discourse is reduced to manageable sound bytes? What happens when we are so cued to the visual that the power of words eludes us? What’s the difference in a Facebook “friend” and a next door neighbor? Do cyber relationships possess the same kind of potential for intimacy and transparency?

Educator Neil Postman wrote a wonderful book in 1985 entitled Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. If you haven’t read it, I commend it to you and encourage you to lay hands on a copy. Postman’s premise is that “form excludes the content” and that we have lost something important in our cultural transition to the visual media. Think about it. People used to think nothing of listening to a two hour lecture or sermon. Now, in many contexts a preacher or speaker will lose much of his or her audience after 15 minutes.

The ability to think critically, to analyze and synthesize material, and to actively listen and to develop and sustain a rational argument seem to be endangered traits. Sure, we’re better at multi-tasking, but recent research postulates that this may not be desirable or more efficient.

Nothing, of course, stays the same, and our success depends upon our ability to adapt or change. That said, the mind needs to be exercised and not lulled into some kind or Orwellian stupor.

Give thanks for the gift of your mind–for your intellect, your ability to reason, to grasp concepts, make connections, remember, experience, and feel. Don’t take it for granted. As the familiar adage reminds us, “use it or lose it.” Read, think, work puzzles, play games, engage in lively conversation and friendly argument. Analyze the content of news, consider all sides of an issue, and think for yourself. Listen to music, read poetry, delve into sacred texts.

Yes, a mind is a terrible thing to waste. You have been given a precious gift. Use it and thank GOD for it.

For Further Reflection

Our modern minds are far more often “full” that “mindful” as we hurry through our busy days. Part of being mindful is the ability to put that 21st century multi-tasking part of your existence aside to focus, center, and simply be. Try to engage in meditation or contemplative prayer as a regular discipline. If you are not familiar with these practices you may find it difficult at first, but with practice it does become easier.

Try this simple exercise. Sit quietly and comfortably in a place with as few distractions as possible. Focus on your breathing and its gentle rhythms. Close your eyes and focus on a simple word or phrase. Why not try “gratitude,” “peace,” or “grace”? Empty your mind of all that crowds in. Acknowledge the thoughts that come but dismiss them for the moment. Aim for five minutes and gradually increase to 15 or more. You should find this time to be relaxing and refreshing.

(Photos by taufiq@eyecreation, ivanpw, andĀ  libookperson used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)