Working and living within the mentally challenged community, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of simplicity.  For more than 20 years, I’ve worked to sift the things of God into simple teaching and uncomplicated principles.  God speaking through the prophet, Micah, told us that he demands from us three straight-forward requirements:

  1. To be fair,
  2. To love kindness
  3. To live humbly before God.

While almost everyone understands fairness, kindness is one of those squishy, mushy words in our vocabulary that has nearly lost its meaning.  When I prodded the Special Gathering members in Vero to “name some acts of kindness,” the first three people said, “Be kind.”  Yes, these are mentally challenged individuals.  However, answering this type of question is a weekly exercise for this class of higher functioning people.  Every Saturday, they fill a black board with their answers to this type of inquiry.

Simply expressed, kindness involves the small things in life that help or enrich others.  A gentle touch.  A meaningful smile to a friend across a room.  Opening the door for a person whose arms are full of knickknacks, books or boxes of papers.  Watching a football game with your teenage son, even though you hate the game.  Gently and carefully brushing the tangles from your daughter’s hair.  It is that crayon colored picture which you post on the refrigerator.  Kindness is tender remembrances that last a lifetime.

Once the Vero members realized that I wanted specifics, their answers become clearer.  One member said, “Kindness is sitting next to someone so they won’t have to sit alone.”  It made me remember a Wednesday night years ago.  

I had to attend the weekly prayer meeting in our church alone.  Usually my husband was with me, but he had to work that evening.  I came into the sanctuary and realized that I would have to sit by myself.  There were other three women sitting by themselves.  

I saw Lynn but I wasn’t going to sit with her because she always sat alone on Wednesday nights.  I thought, she likes to sit alone.  I thought about Gladys who was by herself.  She must enjoy sitting alone, I thought.  She is always alone.   I had the same thoughts about Bernice who was stationed in her normal place sitting in the fifth pew from the front, next to the aisle–always alone.  I felt sorry for myself because I didn’t want to sit alone; and everyone else either had someone to sit with or they wanted to sit alone.

In a most unusual turn of events, that week, I got a phone call from Lynn, one from Gladys and another from Bernice.  Each woman confessed, “I don’t  think I’m ever going to come back to church on Wednesday evening.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I always have to sit alone and I hate it.”

The Holy Spirit softly spoke to heart, “No one wants to sit alone.”  Kindness is finding the single person in our midst and making sure that he or she never has to sit alone.

As the members of Special Gathering filled up our blackboard with simple acts of kindness, I was struck with the strength of this unpretentious, uncomplicated principle.  Kindness can be practiced by the weakest and the most foolish or the most sophisticated, knowledgable Christian.  In the hands of a loving God, kindness becomes tender touches which morph into gigantic acts of love that change lives.

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