This summer, my boys had the opportunity to attend the PGA Championship. Our youngest son spent nearly a week walking the course with his dad, grandpa, and uncle. He met lots of professional golfers, got signatures and pictures, and even picked up some tips to improve his golf game. While he walked away with a new enthusiasm for golf and a better understanding of the game, perhaps the biggest lesson he learned over the course of the week was the importance of kindness. And that lesson came from a European golf champion named Matt Wallace.
My son started following Matt during the practice rounds. Although he was impressed with Matt’s abilities as a golfer (Matt hit a hole-on-one during one of the rounds), the real reason my husband and son joined Matt’s team was because of his kindness. You see, Matt took time to interact with the people around him. He was gracious to his fellow players and the tournament officials. He came over and spoke to the fans following him, taking time out of his busy schedule to interact with total strangers. He let my son come under the rope (a big deal) and gave him an autograph. He always made it a point to say hello to them throughout the tournament. And, on the last day when it was hot, and humid, Matt gave my son and husband water from his own stash. After the tournament, he called my son over to him and pulled a golf ball from his bag. He signed it and took a picture with my son.
When all was said and done, my husband asked our son what he got from the tournament. Our son responded, “I learned about kindness from Matt Wallace.”
Kindness is important in our house. Our boys’ school has kindness as their focus each year. My youngest even got to participate in a kindness leadership training course last year. So, he’s pretty familiar with the concept. And yet, none of the teachings about kindness had near the impact on him as did witnessing kindness in action at the PGA Championship. And that, my friends, is why practicing kindness matters. We can talk about kindness all we want, but it is the practice of it that makes a difference and transforms lives.
So, what is kindness? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” On the surface, kindness doesn’t seem like a lot. But, consider the process involved in being “friendly, generous, and considerate.”
- Kindness notices others. Being friendly implies interaction with others. In order to interact with others, you have to first notice that they’re in front of you. Sometimes, the simple act of noticing someone else can be life-saving and life-sustaining. When we notice others, we show them that they’re not alone. When we notice others, we’re more inclined to engage with them on their journey. When we notice others, we understand that we are not the beginning and end of creation. Rather, we understand that we are part of a vast network of humanity, and that we share many of the same experiences, joys, struggles, and sorrows as others. Kindness notices others.
- Kindness practices generosity. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” What do you think of when you think of the abundant life? Our consumeristic society tells us that abundance has to do with wealth and the accumulation of things. But, Jesus’s economy has a different definition of abundance. In Jesus’s economy, everyone has enough. There is enough food, enough shelter, enough peace, enough justice, enough contentment. We see this lived out in the early church. The book of Acts tells us that the disciples gave generously to each other so that everyone had enough. Abundant living wasn’t about getting more, but making sure everyone had enough. When we practice generosity, we are ensuring that others have enough. We are sharing Jesus’s abundant life. Kindness practices generosity.
- Kindness thinks about others. I like the word considerate. The base comes from consider, which means to think, or ponder. When we are considerate, we thoughtfully think about others, their struggles, their needs, their experiences, their perspectives. Being considerate changes us, because we no longer see the world primarily from our own perspective. We are forced to look outward, not inward. Jesus’s entire ministry was outward-focused. He considered the needs of those he met, and he did what he could to meet those needs. He healed. He taught. He gave his life. Jesus put us first, so that we might be reconciled to him. Kindness thinks about others.
This week, let’s stop thinking about kindness and put it into action. Let’s notice others, whether it be at the cashier at the check-out counter or the homeless veteran on the side of the road. Let’s practice generosity–finding ways that we can give of ourselves, our time, our talents, and our money so that everyone might have enough. Let’s think about others, consider the perspective of someone else, and allow new understandings to guide our actions.
Blessings and Peace,