Learning to be kind.

In January I visited a Methodist circuit in the Midlands. 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.

This weekend I travelled up to Lancashire to be a part of Inspire 7, an annual district event with worship, a keynote speaker and a number of interesting workshops. I was involved in planning and running the youth stream. The young people were fantastic and I think spending the day with them was one of the highlights of my year so far (I say that too often!)

There was a 3 year old girl in one of the sessions, the daughter of one of the leaders. He was leading the session, and so couldn’t respond to her tugging on his trousers. I crossed the room, knelt beside her, said hello, wiped off the chocolate that was smeared around her face and found her some papers and colouring pens.

Later on, she came and round me amongst a crowd of people, and with a surprisingly strong little hand dragged me across the room to see her picture. From then on I was her friend – the one she wanted to help her, to pick her up, to look at her pictures.

I was surprised because, to me, I did nothing out the ordinary.

On Sunday evening I visited One Programme Participant Matt Collins at his project, Methodist Action North West. I joined Matt to help at a drop-in in Preston and was given the job of making hot drinks. In the space of three hours the team of nine volunteers, plus me, served hot drinks and a two course hot meal to 50 homeless and vulnerable people. I totally loved it.

I was surprised because, to me, what those volunteers do is completely extraordinary.

During my week off I went with some members of my church to an awards ceremony at the local Young Offenders Institute. A group of the young men there had taken part in a Prince’s Trust Course, which included spending three days painting our church. We heard their stories; why they were in prison, how their time inside had affected them, hopes for the future, messages of love and thanks to their families and the prison staff. We shared tea and cakes with them, and I even volunteered for a demonstration. I totally loved it.

I was surprised because, to me, people who work with offenders are 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 Big Issue man outside the bank. I’ve never previously visited our local Youth Offending Institute 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 avoidence. 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 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 avoidence, 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. Wipe the chocolate from the face, buy the big issue, look past the crime. Let's be people who are kind.