Have you ever watched Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella?
The Broadway musical became a television special in the 1960’s and a cherished memory from my childhood ever since. The story itself is timeless: boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy finds girl once again to live happily ever after. The addition of a fairy godmother, magic pumpkins and glass slippers that had to be impossible to walk in brought drama and suspense to a tale whose ending was known to us all along. We didn’t watch Cinderella to discover the ending, but to become a part of the story itself. For just when we think the Prince will not have a chance to try the glass slipper on his true love’s foot, Cinderella’s fairy godmother urges her to offer the Prince a cool dipper of water to refresh himself on his arduous travels. Against the protests of her stepmother and stepsisters, Cinderella offers the Prince a drink. He recognizes her, and they know they belong together.
Moral of the story: kindness extended can welcome miracles into our lives in the most unexpected of ways.
Have you ever heard the story of the traveler who was attacked and the man who helped him?
Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jerico, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then, he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these do you think proved neighbor to the man who fell among thieves? He said, ‘The one who showed mercy on him.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same (Luke 10: 29-37).”
Moral of the story: kindness extended becomes an example of mercy for others to follow and through which they may experience newness of life.
Some would say that fairy tales and scripture readings do not mix well as theological underpinnings on which to base our lives. I believe that God welcomes each of us to search out divine activity and reason wherever we may find it. In wise observations we also understand ourselves to be instruments of God’s compassionate, loving action in the world. Kindness is perhaps one of the most important acts of faith we can perform in service to our fellow human beings.
Kindness is simple: friendly, gentle, benevolent, generous behavior toward another person. Think about that for a moment. Consider some of the opportunities through the day that you have to be friendly, gentle, benevolent or generous with another person in how you think about them, speak with them and act toward them. I’m not only asking you to ponder the nice people who cross your path, but also those with whom you don’t feel completely comfortable and those whose response to you may not be anticipated as positive.
How difficult is it for you to offer a friendly, thoughtful attitude to a co-worker who rubs you the wrong way?
Is it possible for you to be gentle and considerate with a family member or an acquaintance who doesn’t listen very well?
Can you generously share your pocket change with a street beggar?
Are you able to set aside your own agenda to benevolently direct or lead a visitor to your city to their destination?
Kindness is always an act of faith, an assurance of a hoped for outcome that will benefit someone else and increase our own belief in God’s friendliness, generosity, benevolence and gentleness for us. Kindness extended stretches our faith, makes it bigger, more inclusive, whatever the response we get from the person to whom we have reached out. Being kind doesn’t guarantee a fairy tale ending to the story, but simply includes us in God’s story.
Reconsider our storybook heroine.
Cinderella should have been, by all rights, a miserable young woman. Her parents were dead and she was stranded in this household serving her rather selfish, rude stepfamily. At best she was taken for granted in all her efforts at cleaning and caring for these ungrateful people. At worst she faced a life of uncertainty and abuse at the hands of those who thought nothing of her. But somewhere in her heart she still found it possible to remain friendly, gentle, generous and benevolent as a way of life. That way led her to her future in one simple gesture of kindness.
Reconsider the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus distinguished this man’s behavior between that of the Jewish priest and the Levite because there was no love lost between Samaritans and Jews in Jesus’ time. But still the Samaritan extended friendliness, gentleness, generosity and benevolence to a man he didn’t know who would potentially never repay him. The Good Samaritan crossed cultural, religious, financial and personal security boundaries to help a stranger in a time of deeply-felt need.
Moral of the story: kindness moves us outside our usual ways of thinking and behaving to become one with God’s story of love.