May 13, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
I’m going to date myself here with an illustration from the 60s.
In 1969, country singer Glen Campbell released a hit single called “Try a Little Kindness.” The catchy chorus urged, “You’ve got to try a little kindness, yes show a little kindness. Yes shine your light for everyone to see. And if you’ll try a little kindness then you’ll overlook the blindness of the narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets.”
Not exactly world-class poetry, I’ll admit. But I think the Apostle Paul might have liked this song if he’d heard it. After all, Ephesians 4:32 reads, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Be kind . . . or, perhaps, try a little kindness.
In fact, sometimes just a little kindness goes a long way. As I was reflecting on this verse from Ephesians, from out of nowhere a memory came to me of an experience I had in New York City almost 40 years ago. I was in grad school at the time, traveling back to Massachusetts after visiting my family in California. Because I had little money, I used the cheapest way to get to Boston from Los Angeles: flying to New York City and then taking the Greyhound bus from the Port Authority to South Station in Boston. It was a long and draining trip.
On one particular occasion, my flight to New York had been delayed by bad weather, so I didn’t get to the city until late evening. I was exhausted and discouraged by the prospect of a five-hour, late-night bus ride to Boston. Plus, I was missing my family and feeling pretty depressed about my sorry life.
Before catching the bus, I needed to get something to eat, so I stepped into a burger joint. This was in New York, of course, so the restaurant was jammed and noisy. I waited for a long time until I was finally able to plop down in a small booth. I noticed that the only waitress in the place, a black woman about sixty, was rushing around like crazy. Given how hungry I was, I silently rebuked myself for picking this place. I figured I’d have to wait forever before being served.
But, to my surprise, the waitress hurried over to my table. She stopped for a second to look closely at me. “Sugar,” she said, “you look pretty down. What can I get you to help you feel better?” Now, I don’t usually like to be called “Sugar,” but in this case, that name sounded sweet. Somebody had noticed me. Somebody had actually seen me. Somebody was being kind to me, even in a crowded burger joint in New York City, of all places.
I ordered my dinner, feeling strangely better about life. Throughout the meal, my angelic waitress kept checking on me, saying things like, “You doing okay, honey? You need anything?” She wanted to know why I was in the city and so I described my long day of travel. “Sounds awful,” she said. When it was time for me to go, I asked for my check. “You have a safe trip, now, sugar. And know that things will get better. God bless.”
For some reason, when she told me things would get better, I believed her. And, indeed, God had already blessed me through her because she had, indeed, tried a little kindness.
Something to Think About:
When have you experienced exceptional kindness?
When have you been particularly kind to someone?
Are there ways you could be kind to the people in your life today?
Something to Do:
Today’s action step is simple. Try a little kindness! Whether at work or home, while shopping or while commuting, show kindness to others.
Gracious God, how I thank you for that waitress in New York, for the fact that she saw me and cared for me. Thank you for her kindness. Help me, Lord, to be like her. May I see the people I work with so that I might be kind to them. May I see my wife and my children, my neighbors and friends. Help me, Lord, to be kind to those whom I serve at work as well as those who serve me through their work. By the help of your Spirit, may I be kind today. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Kindness for Repentance
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.