Every person on Planet Earth has at least one thing in common. Regardless of creed, geography or age: We all want to leave the world in a better state than the way we found it.
I have drawn encouragement from numerous influential rabbis throughout history. The rabbis I particularly enjoy are the ones who have committed themselves to the discipline of memorizing the truths of scripture – and living those truths out in their everyday lives. In order to even apply to rabbinical training, they needed to memorize the Books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, word for word. Getting into this level of rabbinical living is not something one does haphazardly nor by simply scoring well on one’s SATs in high school.
These rabbis are dedicated to changing the world around them.
One particularly powerful rabbinic saying that has stuck close to my heart for years is this statement:
“Is it not the kindness of God that leads to a radical life change?”
Unleashing this sort of kindness is not as difficult as we might imagine. In fact, if we find it difficult, that is a sure sign we are doing something wrong! The kindness we are referring to is beyond our ability to manufacture.
Kindness is certainly one constant that has proven throughout history to be a power that affects all who are touched by it.
As we make ourselves available to be conduits of kindness and love begins to flow through us, an atmosphere is created that changes all around us.
“May the dust of my teacher cover my clothes…”
What does that mean? In short, a great teacher / rabbi / pastor, isn’t simply one who says much, but one who does what he/she says! In their life, there is no difference between speaking and living. No masks. There is authenticity through and through.
We live in a time in history that has had it with much talk with little to no action.
The teachers who have had an impact upon my life, have gotten my attention because they have not lived sheltered lives. They have taken their message to the streets of the world and sought to bring change, to end suffering and in general to usher in the love that can come from God alone. Anyone who steps forward to be a world changer realizes quickly, the truth of the scripture, “My best deeds are as grease stained rags.” So how do we proceed? We depend upon God to live his life through us.
As King David so powerfully wrote, “Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain who seek to build it.”
World changers are the ones who realize they are incapable of changing anything or anyone – starting with themselves! It is only God who can change a life. But a great teacher is one who models the way of availability and activism. Those who follow a “dusty” teacher learn by putting into practice what they have heard.
In Christ-following vernacular one kind of leader is a “deacon.” The root of that word in Greek, ‘diakonos’ is literally “dust kicker.” Such a leader is someone who is so busy serving, she / he is continually kicking up the dust around them. Like Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen (minus the lack of hygiene!) one of these authentic leaders is self-defined by the continual serving that goes on through their lives.
Kindness changes all around us.
“Isn’t that a judgmental statement? Aren’t we assuming a person needs to be changed, that there is something wrong that needs to be changed?”
Here’s another way to think. Be honest – Don’t we all need to be changed on a regular basis?
One of my heroes that I suspect will be difficult to top is (was) Mother Teresa. Near the end of her life she was interviewed by a British journalist. The question posed to her was, “What is it that makes Mother Teresa tick?” She immediately retorted, “It certainly isn’t any of the visibility the Sisters of Charity have received or any of the accolades others have shown me. It is all about carrying nearly dead people in from the streets of Calcutta to our tiny hospice so each of them could either be nursed back to health or they could die with dignity and realize there is a God who ultimately rules the Earth who loves them and cares for them – regardless of the lack of justice they have experienced.”
What is the greatest lesson you have you learned from all of those years of carrying people into your hospice?”
“Simply this – that if one doesn’t begin with the first dying person, you will never get to the 35,000th one.”
That’s powerful insight regarding simple faithfulness.
Mother Teresa changed bit by bit throughout her life, like we all do. As godly as she was, she was also a demanding leader as most accomplished leaders in life tend to be. It is apparent she was no angel to work for. Of the dozen or more biographies written about her, each of them capture this aspect of her personality. She was an exacting leader and asked a lot of those who served with her. Yet Mother Teresa changed each day as she allowed God’s kindness to flow through her each day until she passed away in her 80s.
Day By Day…
The idea of being a “lifelong learner” seems to be the topic of conversation and a lot of articles these days. If we lock in and lock down at a given point and simply begin to take the “cruise control” approach to life, we are really beginning a slow death. Those who are mentally and emotionally healthy continue learning all of their days.
It is human nature to avoid change.
I have attempted to show others kindness and generosity each day for over twenty years now. As a result, I have been changed. When we embrace kindness as a way of life, we jump into a river that pulls us forward. We make progress. We grow more mature.
Kindness Spontaneously Changes Us
Ironically, the ones who are the most transformed through acts of generosity are those who are the conduits of kindness.
You and I have been created, in part, to be channels of God’s kindness and love.
We are never as fulfilled as when we flow with kindness. That is, God loving others through us. You will discover there is a level of satisfaction that happens to us when simply allow God’s love to flow through us as we walk through life and look for invitations to come our way. The scriptures speak of this experience as being marked by, “Joy unspeakable, and full of glory!” That is uncontainable satisfaction.
We might well ask, “Why would should I be kind? I have problems. I need help myself. Let someone else be the one who shows kindness.” Any of us could well say that. If we were to have a coffee hour and compare “war stories” we might be able to “one up” each other as we went around our sharing circle.
After serving a few people with acts of kindness the question will likely shift to, “Why do I get the privilege of serving others in this way?” You will discover you are being healed as you give away what you apparently don’t possess to begin with. This is the way God works. He calls upon us to give away what we don’t have – thus we rely upon him to be the source of what is needed. It is a great mystery of life. When we arrange life in such a way that God is the missing part that is necessary we discover he delights in “showing up” and proving that he is not only real, but he is head over heels in love with us and those we are serving.
Can I Afford This?
A better question is, “How can I afford not to do this?”
TRUE CONFESSION TIME:
Though I have been writing about the power of kindness for over 20 years (14 books and about 1,000 articles) I realize more clearly than ever that little kindness dwells in me. This is all about the kindness of God flowing through each of us.
It is all about the kindness and love of God. The human part of this, from beginning to end, is to be available. If we seek to show kindness in our power, nothing but silliness will result. God will appear unkind. We will look silly. We are utterly inconsistent. He is rock steady – always.
Let the kindness of God flow through you.
Then watch out – big things will flow from our tiny beginnings!
An Invitation to Be a World Changer
Let’s do what is in all of our hearts. Let’s alter the path this Planet is taking. Each one of us can do little, but together we can do amazing things.