The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-ChargeTrinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

September 26, 2012

Some of us may benefit from a refresher course in kindergarten. Kindergarten (from the Old High German kinder, the plural of kind, child) as described by Edward Hays “was originally designed as an orientation adjustment from home to school for children ages four to five.” It was a place where children could learn to interact with one another and learn kindness. Practicing kindness would teach them polite behavior, courteous respect for one another, and how to express gratitude for simple acts of service. This we expect from our children when kindness is practiced in a home. In advanced years, however, many are not as concerned about being kind as they are advancing their self-interests even it means putting other people down. Bullying is even upheld as political patriotism.

St. Paul on the other hand encouraged his readers to be kind. Kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) As we know, it is sometimes hard to be kind when we are mistreated. Our initial instinct might be to fight back. But Paul taught not to return evil for evil, but goodness. (1 Thessalonians 5:15) He understood Jesus’ compassionate approach to “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (Luke 6:27-28) Jesus understood the weakness in others. His motive was not to get even with those who offended him but to provide an alternative – a loving heart.

Kindness includes a thoughtful relationship towards others providing help and assurance when it is needed. While we might think that the recipients of our kindness are those closest to us, we sometimes forget to be kind since they are the ones most likely to forgive us for rude remarks. Teasing can also be an issue. Teasing is not always funny. Teasing can be hurtful when we disguise criticism with humor. After the laugh there may be a tear.

Whether we choose to take a refresher course in kindergarten or not, remembering to be kind is the behavior that exemplifies the work of the Spirit. There is enough evil in this world without adding fuel to the fire. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are more likely to bring us into harmony with one another and the Spirit.