In January I visited a Methodist circuit near the city of Birmingham. I stayed with the circuit Youth and Children’s worker Vickie, her husband Chris and her son Dylan, who is 8 years old. I visited 2 local youth groups and spoke at an evening service. I also got well introduced to Dylan’s train set, the games on his Ipod, the things he likes to do on his computer and his pet birds.
When I left after the weekend I was surprised to receive a text from my hosts saying that Dylan was very upset that I had left – in fact he didn’t stop crying for an hour.
I was surprised because, to me, I did nothing out of the ordinary.
On Sunday evening I visited Methodist Action North West, joining the team at a drop-in at a church in the city of Preston. In the space of three hours we served a two course hot meal accompanied by friendly conversation to 50 homeless and vulnerable people.
The people volunteering were cheerful, hardworking and seemed to really enjoy serving in that way.
I was surprised because, to me, what those volunteers do is completely extraordinary.
Being kind to children comes very easily to me. I realise that some people see children as a nuisance, but to me they are very rarely anything other than a sheer joy – even the naughty ones. Why do all the other people in the room ignore the bored chocolatey 3 year old? Why do other people not love seeing the enthusiasm of an eight year old with a train set? It makes me quite sad that I stand out when I do these things, because it means that other people don’t do it. A little bit of attention goes a very very long way.
On the other hand, if I am honest, I find being kind to homeless people or young offenders more difficult. I am ashamed to admit, I would be person who sometimes crosses the street to avoid the homeless man outside the bank. I’ve never previously visited our local Youth Offending Institute to spend time with the lonely young prisoners there despite being invited numerous times. These things come awkwardly to me. It’s not a feeling of a dislike but a feeling of discomfort. A subconscious avoidance. I imagine this is how some people feel around children.
I long to be kind.
I long to be kind when it is easy and natural.
I long to be kind when it needs conscious thought, a bit of effort, working through discomfort.
Some challenges to finish with:
Firstly: where, and with you, do you find it easy to be kind? Celebrate this – things that feel natural and obvious to you, don’t to everyone. Recognise the loves and gifts and natural strengths that God has given you.
Secondly: where and with whom do you find it a bit more difficult to be kind? This could either be a mild sense of discomfort, an unconscious avoidance, or it might be you can think of times when it’s actually really hard. Over the next few days find opportunities to be kind in places where it doesn’t come naturally.
Give another person your attention, just for a little while. Show interest in what is important to them. Stop for a moment, and try to see them through God’s eyes. Wipe the chocolate from the face, help the homeless person, look past the crime or the dirt or the different-ness. Let’s be people who are kind.
‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”