Radical Care

I remember driving in the old Chevrolet with my Dad behind the wheel, going to pick up some kids for church when I was about 8 or 9 years old. And while my father had a compassion for the family we were connecting with, I remember that I did not. For some reason, I didn’t like the little girl belonging to this particular family. Didn’t think she smelled right, nor did I think she wore the right clothes. Just didn’t like the look of her. And I sure as heck didn’t want to go to her house and pick her up. Something about her just rubbed me the wrong way. And I got my ‘back up’. I decided she wasn’t someone I needed to be kind to.

So I wasn’t kind.

Throughout the years, I have never forgotten that girl. Never forgotten the uncalled for dismissal of her in my mind. And perhaps because of her, I now as an adult have decided to be more deliberate and intentional in my choice to show kindness.

But I have noticed something all the while and throughout this learning process: there are some people to whom it is hard for us to be kind. For whatever the reason- right or wrong. They set something off in us; and those emotions push our buttons. Or maybe it is that they don’t really like us either, and that creates a tension all its own. Perhaps it is something longstanding that has come between two people that has been left unresolved. Or maybe it is just one little hurt after another that has built up a wall of disappointment and fear.

It’s not easy being kind to those we love. How can we ever hope to be kind to those we don’t love- those we don’t care for much at all?

And why should we anyway? Do we really need to love and care for everyone in our life? Surely not our enemies. And what about our ‘frenemies’? Do they deserve our care?

Watching the news, one doesn’t have to search far to find dislike and tension between groups. Currently, around the world there are four ongoing armed conflicts that have resulted in 10,000 or more deaths in the current or past year, there are eleven armed conflicts that have resulted in 1000- 9,999 deaths in the current or past year and there are twenty armed conflicts that have resulted in 100- 999 deaths in the same time frame; seventeen with fewer than 100 deaths (Wikipedia). These stats do not take into account ongoing civil unrest or violence against protestors not resulting in armed conflict. These stats do not take into account tensions that are mounting between cultural groups in North America as well as around the world. These stats do not take into account personal conflicts or private conflicts that fall below the radar that are still disruptive and disturbing- even here in Canada. These stats don’t take into account familial and interpersonal strife.

What these stats do tell us is this: it’s hard to get along. And they give us a hint at what this world needs so as to even begin hoping for a transformation. What we need in this world is radical, transformative love.

Radical kindness. Radical love. Radical compassion. It is what we need in this world to make a change.

I write a great deal about care, kindness, love and compassion. And when I send my writing out into the larger media ring (the national news circuit) for consideration, I have found that kindness is a topic that doesn’t interest many. The response of the public readership is rather blasé. They’d rather read about something controversial, something that ignites a strong reaction. Kindness is just too sweet.

But what the world doesn’t seem to know about kindness yet is this:
“Within our human connectedness, what matters the most is something so simple it can almost be overlooked. Something so ordinary in its application that its intense impact can be disregarded. It is simple, but not easy. Unpretentious, yet so difficult to maintain. That’s the thing about kindness: it seems basic. Yet its impact is astronomical. And the ways in which our interactions are affected by its absence are profound. In this life, amongst all our human relationships both intimate and otherwise, what matters beyond all else is that we are authentically kind to one another. Kind, in each and every encounter we undertake” (Gard, 2015)

It takes courage and guts and stamina and backbone and grit to be kind. Each and every day that we are given breath in our lungs. Kindness isn’t always natural like breathing. It’s far harder. It’s like grasping out to hold onto a small twig as you slide down a cliff on some days. It’s like planting your feet securely in the waters as wave after wave of salt-water impact tries to knock you over. It’s like holding up the corner of a crumbling building with your bare hands when all that is in you is telling you to let go. It’s like a storm raging overhead while you crouch beneath it, determined to ride out the rains.

No, kindness is not always easy. Sometimes it is the hardest choice you will have to make.

I still have people in my life that I am willing to admit- they are hard to be kind towards. I can also attest to the fact that I am a person in other peoples’ lives that they feel exactly the same way.

What helps me is this: I cannot control what others do/say/think about me, but I can be aware and intentional in my response to them. Because at the end of my life, when I lie on my own deathbed and time slips quickly from my hand, what matters is how I have lived my life. That’s it. And if I have lived life compassionately — with caring and kindness EVEN TO MY ENEMIES — I have done life well.

What this world needs now is love- radical love. And that loves starts right here.

Starts with me.

Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

These are fightin’ words…

Second youngest daughter is that excited about tomorrow.  Her class is going to a local veteran’s cemetery.  You read that right…she is excited about going to a cemetery.  She actually asked me for camouflage pants, and my guess is she believes this will help create the mood necessary for one visiting a war memorial/veteran’s grave site.  Unfortunately, her camo’s are pink and grey, and they have a fancy belt that is attached.  Not sure if they would qualify as standard issues.  But she’s decided to wear em’ anyway.   Also not quite sure what to make of all this hoopla, but I guess I will take it for what it’s worth.  She is showing an interest in remembering the fallen ones who fought for freedom, democracy and justice for our country.  It doesn’t hurt things any that she gets to escape the confines of her regiment/ Grade 3 classroom while she’s at it.   Of course, I hope the tribute to the soldiers is why she is excited.  But realizing that she is only eight and she loves a distraction, I truly can’t say that the former is the real reason for sure.

Meanwhile, my son has been in bed all day with a war injury of his own.  He attended a party last night at a friend’s house and was knocked backwards down a slight hill only to land on his neck and back part of his head.  He spent the majority of the day in bed with a hot bean bag wrapped around his neck.   And he was as cranky as an old military sergeant.   Tomorrow morning will be telling as to just how bad this injury truly is.  Let’s just say that I might need a sub plan at the ready, as he said he would “let me know in the morning” how he was feeling.  I love spur-of-the-moment days off work.  Especially when I get to spend all those hours of quality time sitting in the local ER watching preschool children’s programming.

All this fighting, warring and thinking about field trips to cemeteries has got me feeling like I need to batten down the hatches and ready myself for a true fight against nature.  Hurricane Sandy is making its way up the coast, and Oldest has already asked me if it might possibly mean a day off school.  Not likely, but it is worth crossing one’s fingers and toes just in case.  There is always the slight possibility that a power pole might blow over and the Gard road loses electricity for the morning.  In which case, I will be sitting at home with four unbearably cranky kids with no computer or television to distract them.  On second thoughts, I hope Sandy gets sidetracked before she/he/it hits the Maritimes.

As it is now well past my bedtime, and I am fatigued from having waged wars over clothing, food, piano practicing, games, bedtimes and dirty laundry, not to mention false FARTS (you read that right),  I will hang up my holster for another day and head up to the barracks.  Here’s to another day tomorrow on the military base (a.k.a. Gard household).