by Father Mark Goldasich
Ever since it happened, I’ve been spooked about retrieving the morning paper from my driveway.
Although I believe that the Lord speaks to us, this was a bit too much to handle. As I bent over to grab the paper on that summer morning, it looked like there was some dirt on its plastic wrapper.
When I went to wipe it off, however, it wasn’t dirt at all. It was actually a hand-drawn smiley face with the words, “Be Kind,” written underneath.
Now, I don’t know if everyone’s paper that day had this message or if it was just me. But the reason it so creeped me out was I intended to make this my mantra for the new year . . . but the only one I’d told about it was God!
I’d been pondering this quote: “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The truth of those words struck a deep chord in me. Although sometimes attributed to Plato or Philo, the quote’s probable origin is from the Rev. John Watson, a Scottish author and theologian, who wrote under the pen name of Ian Maclaren.
In a Christmas message for The British Weekly back in 1897, he wrote: “Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle.” The word “pitiful” here actually means “being filled with pity”; in other words, be compassionate, gentle or kind.
Talk of “the hard battle that everyone is fighting” brought to mind this folk story:
When the Hasidic pilgrims vied for those among them who had endured the most suffering, who was more entitled to complain, the Zaddick told them the story of the Sorrow Tree.
On the Day of Judgment, each person will be allowed to hang his or her unhappiness and sufferings on a branch of the great Tree of Sorrows. After all have found a limb from which their miseries may dangle, they may walk slowly around the tree. Each person is to search for a set of sufferings that he or she would prefer to those he or she has hung on the tree.
In the end, each one freely chooses to reclaim his or her own assortment of sorrows rather than those of another. Each person leaves the Tree of Sorrows wiser than when he or she arrived. (Found in “The Sower’s Seeds,” by Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.)
Can you imagine what 2019 would be like if we all recognized the “hard battle” — the sorrows — that each person is silently carrying?
Would we be as quick to judge or condemn others? And if we could somehow see those sufferings, would we want to trade places with them?
Pope Francis has spoken often of an illness rampant in the world today. He calls it the “globalization of indifference.”
As Christians, we can’t let the world desensitize us. Kindness, it seems to me, is the “antibiotic” that we all need. And no special course or program is required to spread kindness. All it takes is a caring heart.
Honestly, is it really that hard to do something kind every day for another? Just for the month of January, come up with 31 good deeds to do.
It can be as simple as putting a quarter in someone’s parking meter that’s going to expire; clearing your table at a fast-food restaurant and not leaving your mess behind; forwarding a compliment someone shared with you about another person; or simply smiling when you answer the phone — your voice will reflect it.
See how easy it is?
My goal each day of 2019 is to say this prayer found on the belief.net website. Will you join me?
“Dear God, if I cannot be brilliant, let me be kind. If I cannot change the world, let me inspire just one other to do so. If I cannot give away riches, let me be loving. Let me be known for kindness, for it is the greatest glory. Amen.”
Living this way each day will truly make you one of a kind.