Care Capsule Issue 56

Are You Active or Passive?

Care and Kindness is an active concept.
We have a responsibility to be pro-active in applying this vision. 

To some, Care and Kindness is warm fuzzies — smiling at people, being nice, perhaps being a better listener. They take a fairly ‘passive’ position in providing acts of Care and Kindness. To others, the real impact of Care and Kindness is in being proactive — taking actions that will benefit others; actions that are a choice for them. They perform deeds neither required nor even expected, but deeds which will definitely benefit others and impact people for good.

Example: For how many years did people in wheelchairs face the difficulty of entering public buildings and businesses which had stairs? How many times were they prevented from entering because there was no way for them to get their wheelchairs up the stairs —- no ramp, no elevator, no alternatives? How many times did they have to rely on others to carry them and their wheelchairs up the stairs (and then DOWN again, later)? Then the government stepped in and made it a requirement that buildings with steps must also provide a wheelchair ramp. At that point, under penalty of law, ramps were installed at the front of buildings. Sloped areas were cut into street curbs at the crosswalks.

Why was it necessary for us to be forced to do something that was needed — something that would help a number of other people? An individual or an organization would truly demonstrate Care and Kindness if they installed wheelchair ramps BEFORE they were required to. They would have taken action when they woke up to the need that existed.

True, it would have cost them money that they didn’t have to spend. But when the law required these changes, the money had to be spent anyway. So, financial cost isn’t a fair consideration. People who adopt an attitude of Care and Kindness take actions they don’t HAVE to take. 

Example: How long have we had smoke detectors available for purchase and installation? How many times have we heard that smoke alarms have saved people’s lives? And yet how many people voluntarily installed them in their homes and in their businesses? The installation of a smoke alarm is an act of Care and Kindness. It exhibits concern and care for the well being of others.

Today, we are required by building codes to install these devices in new construction, and even in older portions of a home or business, when new construction is added. So . . . we now install them everywhere — because we are REQUIRED to do so.

It is exactly parallel with the first example. Earlier installation would have cost money that didn’t have to be spent. Yet, we end up spending it anyway. Financial concern is no excuse! Acts of Care and Kindness must not be restricted because of money issues. 

Another example: There are many organizations that are operating under this philosophy of Care and Kindness. A major one is Habitat For Humanity. They build houses for people who need them simply because they are needed. How many other organizations can you think of that operate under this principle? We must thank God for the work of Habitat for Humanity.

The key question is: What are YOU doing that exhibits Care and Kindness? What  are you doing that you don’t have to do? What actions are you taking that are not required by law, code, penalty, etc.? We can’t leave it to others, such as Habitat for Humanity—we must take a pro-active stance on our own.

These are the ways that we demonstrate our faith. This is how we put our faith into action. We show our love for God by doing things that help other people for His glory. We do these things voluntarily, without waiting until we are required to do them.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you call yourself a Christian; showing acts of Care and Kindness is a way for everyone to give back to society. Your religious belief system is not at stake. Society in general (whether through friends and community or through government) has provided each of us with much to be thankful for. We have an obligation to give something back in return. Care and

Kindness makes you a better person and provides a means for you to partially repay your debt to society.

Care and Kindness is not passive; it is not a warm fuzzy; it is not simply being a nice person. Care and Kindness is a pro-active position and a proactive attitude. Look around. See where there are needs that are not being met — needs that are not yet being addressed by law. What can you do that will help others before it becomes law that you MUST do?

 

Care Capsule Issue 55

Love is More Than a Feeling

Tears were in Mary’s eyes as she walked through the mall. The jeweler had just informed her that a missing diamond in her ring would cost $400.00 to replace. It was such a major cost and the lost jewel had been part of her original wedding ring. 

As she mournfully walked, she encountered a small lad, weeping and looking lost. She stopped and immediately reached out to him. She tried to comfort him. And then, shortly and happily, his big sister soon appeared looking for him. 

Feeling miserable herself, Mary had nevertheless expressed important loving-kindness to the lost little boy. And that is an important fact of life. 

When Jesus told his followers, and all of us, to love one another, he was not talking about warm feelings, emotional energy, or physical attraction. It was about attitudes and actions that lifted, encouraged, fixed, solved. 

You see how Mary demonstrated that? What were her feelings? She was sad and mournful over the lost diamond, apprehensive about the cost of a replacement, distraught because this was about her original wedding ring. She was in no mood to be helpful or to be thinking about other people. She was wrapped up in her own problem.

You don’t have to have the feelings in order to take the actions

And yet . . . she allowed herself to notice the little lost boy. She made the effort to comfort him. She showed kindness, not because she was in the mood to do that sort of thing, but because she made the decision to do it. To love one another calls for us to be alert, aware, and attentive to our surroundings and the people around us, or those that we know about, directly or indirectly – by word of mouth, news items, or other communication resources.

Loving one another is not the same for everybody, of course. Some are inheritors of tremendous cognitive talents. They are thinkers who live in a world different from the less thoughtful. Their focus is opposite from the extrovert who is connecting with everyone he sees or meets. But even the ‘thinkers’ are called by Jesus to break out of their shells and reach out to the hurting, the lonely and the troubled.  It may take them extra effort, but it is the mandate for all of us to live in a wider world and be personally connected to needy people to some extent. Living in a cognitive, or any other kind of shell, is not appropriate twenty-four hours a day.

It was more than a half-century ago when I was a college student, too poor to own a car. Hitch-hiking was the way in those days that some of us young men made our way around the state. I remember being picked up by a middle-aged man in a large four-door Buick. He looked rather well-to-do. And as he talked, I became aware that he was in some aspect of the jewelry business. But the unforgettable thing was that he drove me to my destination at least a mile off the highway. Here I sit over fifty years later, still touched and lifted by that good stranger. His kindness touches my heart today!

Over fifty years later, I am still touched by that good stranger

The good man never had a clue about what his kindness did for a poor college student. It may have emotionally carried me over a handful of worries and distresses.

There may have been some sympathy that was motivating the Buick driver when he picked me up, but maybe not. What he did, however, is a model for our lives: we are called to notice need, be aware of frustration, realize people’s pain.  It is more of a thoughtful activity than one motivated by feelings or emotions. Sympathy and empathy are gifts of God that can move us into helping those who are hurting or in distress. But thoughtfulness and realization must lead the way. We must think about the needs of humanity and move into helpfulness.

When Jesus called us to "love one another", feelings and emotions were not likely part of His agenda. Loving feelings have become a major part of our love-consciousness. But love is so much bigger than our feelings. 

We see that when we look at the life of Jesus.  There was so much distress, pain and suffering as He lived his life and died for us.  Loving kindness was a life-giving choice, not simply following feelings of compassion and sympathy—although that was clearly present in Jesus’ life also.

So we are called to thoughtfulness and awareness of the people and world around us. Action to meet needs follows. We may be busy with other things or hurting for some reason ourselves when we see and realize a need and move into helpfulness. Remember, love is more than a feeling.  Love is care and kindness in action that meets a need we know about.  And sometimes such helpfulness (love) removes or reduces our own pain.

Much of the time we can distribute love to people who do not even realize they can use some. When you compliment the cashier for her nice-looking earrings, she will be surprised by your gift. When you tell the auto-mechanic how much you appreciate his good work, he, too, will be flabbergasted, not expecting anything at all.

Most of the people we meet in our daily activities are just busy doing their jobs. The nurse, the mail-man, the gas station clerk, the policeman will be surprised by joy when told their work is so important and appreciated. You don’t need be in a warm, expansive mood in order to do this — you just need to do it. Love is an action. Love is a decision.

A friend of mine told me something he was doing that is 100% fresh and original.  He said he is sending e-mail notes to L.A. Times writers, using the contact information at the end of many columns. What a beautiful way to do a surprisingly unique brand of loving-kindness.

A few mornings ago I noticed a police vehicle across the street in front of our house. I figured he was bothered by the large van parked on the wrong side of the street.  I strolled over to his open window and chatted a little with him.  Then I said, "Thank you for taking care of this". "Wow," he said, "no one has ever said something like that to me."

Loving kindness is a life-giving choice, not simply following feelings

The message that I want to emphasize and clarify is that you don’t have to have the feelings in order to take the actions. Mary certainly didn’t have warm, expansive feelings or a positive mood at the mall, but she did the right thing anyway. The man who writes notes to the newspaper columnists may not feel like doing it on a particular day, but he has undertaken the project anyway. I didn’t mention that my day had started off poorly, but I nevertheless spoke positive words to the policeman. Acts of kindness, words of help or encouragement, gestures of caring — all of these are intentional acts that don’t wait for the feelings to come first.

We are in this world to brighten it, to lift people, to encourage others. That is a big part of what it means to "love one another". And it is not a matter of following our feelings.  It is a matter of working thoughtfully at doing what Jesus called us to do.

 

Care Capsule Issue 54

Living With Fear

It is a fearful world in which we live.  So, that being true, one of the most comforting Biblical texts we know says, "Fear not for I am with you." Jesus, talking to each of us.

That loving picture does calm a lot of our anxiety. It quiets our fears and gives needed peace to every troubled heart.

There is a common cry in Holy Scripture, calling us to realize the constant and consistent loving care of our Lord. We seem to be called to breath deeply, let a smile grace our lips, and allow our fears and anxieties to melt and float away.

We, Jesus’ children, are called and encouraged toward peace—a strong fearless state of mind and heart. We are loved away from that common human condition that too easily defines us and describes how we walk from hour to hour—troubled, anxious, intensely apprehensive, worried. Instead, we must feel this:

"Fear not I am with you. I will never leave you or forsake you." We are safe in the arms of Jesus.

At the same time, frightening days and nights embrace us all the time. There is so much we must face, wrestle with, ponder and handle.

For example, not far from here, in San Bernardino, recently, two terrorists with big guns murdered fourteen innocent people in cold blood. Suddenly, we all are terrorized and slammed into fresh awful possibilities that could happen anywhere. Someone, with tears in her eyes, cried to me, "that could happen on Sunday morning at church!"

Our wonderful spiritual promises about the constant presence and love of Jesus helps a lot, but every day threats and dangers keep calling us to vigilance, caution, guardedness.

Anxiety and fear are inevitable side effects. We are afraid. And we are friends and neighbors of many wrestling with terror, fear, and apprehension, even while knowing they are safe in the arms of Jesus.

What can we do?

We must recognize and acknowledge our fears. Denial, which is the capacity to convince ourselves we are not afraid—or that there is nothing to worry about—is a common tactic, but it is ill-advised. It is a way of living as if there is nothing to worry about.

For a while it can create a protective armor, but that denial can create a vulnerability that can set us up for deep hurt and great pain. Denial neglects facing reality and doing something in order to be prepared.

Sometimes getting on with life requires denial. But it must be a temporary choice. There is much to be concerned about. When danger threatens, we can sensibly carry out reasonable and simple actions that may be protective: going to a friend’s house, notifying the police, informing friends and neighbors, relocating valuables, increasing privacy, and anything else that might be beneficial. Sensible action is mildly tranquilizing.

Talking to a Pastor, friend or family member helps relieve fear. Connecting with others creates the inner impression, and reality, of not being alone in a frightening predicament. It is acting on our God-ordained guidance, which calls us to "love one another", rather than go through fearsome circumstances all by ourselves. It is a Godly idea, given to us not to test our goodness, but to encourage us and strengthen our preparedness.

Rest helps maintain our resilience. It keeps us ready, aware, and flexible. Add physical exercise to restfulness and we will be far more resilient and equipped to carry, and face, fearsome circumstances and frightening events. Regular routines of rest and exercise enables us to face the hardships of life. Even Jesus modeled that kind of living.

Prayer is spiritual medicine. We are not called to the practice of prayer to satisfy God’s spiritual behavior expectations—prayer is God-given therapy. We are called to prayer for our own relief, guidance, support, comfort and even more. Prayer is a Godly prescription, opening therapeutic doors and soul-soothing remedies. Talking to the Lord is far deeper and bigger than a religious activity. It is a healing walk in the middle of heartache and concern.

 

Care Capsule Issue 53

Pain Helps Us Grow

The title of this essay worries me. I fear that someone will take the words too literally and run with the idea.

I am concerned they would play down the heartbreak that goes with some of the unwanted circumstances of life. Heartache and tragedy, loss and grief — these things are not to be appreciated or sought after; rather, they are what happens to us, and they hurt!

Therefore, please, never suggest to someone who is hurting or grieving that ‘pain helps us grow’. Never say that there is something good to be found in heartache or distress! The rule for loving-kindness to those who are injured, or living with pain, is to simply "weep with those who weep". These brief words from the Bible are our best guide. They are the essence of empathy.

Have you noticed, though, that pain usually heals? It is the way we are created. As time passes, the wounds change, they close up, they look different, and they usually hurt less than at their beginning.

Of course, this is not totally true. When a parent loses a child by death (or by any means), time may change how they feel, but most who face this will say the pain of losing a child never goes away and it never diminishes.

And there are other pains and losses like that.

Nevertheless, the reality of this topic must be lifted up and even valued — pain does help us grow. Going through the pain and the struggle and the grief, in time, often, if not always, strengthens us and deepens us.

In my own life I discovered fifteen years after it happened that my mother’s death, at her young age of 39, slowly but definitely helped me to grow. It led me to be more effective in responding to sad and untimely deaths—and maybe to grief in general. It may even have led me into professional ministry, by jolting me into thoughtfulness.

For the first fifteen years following her death, I struggled with mild depression. I did not realize what was the cause of my unhappy life. Later (15 years after her death), after being confronted very personally with my sadness and actually being healed, I became a new person. I believe the tragedy, hitting me as it did, has enlightened, deepened, and sensitized me—and maybe more. It took a long time, but the good Lord turned my sadness into qualities helpful to others.

A Caution: Having said all that, I must point out a need for caution. It is impossible to imagine a time when this truth about my own life should be shared with a devastated person. I must never be talking to one who is suffering, about how Jesus’ love will enlarge and deepen their faith. That is glossing over their pain. Leave such thoughts for the Sunday sermon or the Bible study. Do not talk that way yourself. Those words are not helpful during the moments of crisis.

Jesus’ love does show up when hearts are breaking. Jesus‘ love is there! But the vital truth that ‘pain helps us to grow’ is a reality we mostly carry quietly and personally in the corner of our heart. Healing can’t be hurried. Jesus walked with me for fifteen years before I began to awaken, heal, and grow.

Jesus’ loving Spirit is there when we are bleeding and in agony. It is comforting to realize how His healing heart shows up when we are knocked down. That is Love! Jesus’ love! The healing of the Lord is such a beautiful and powerful reality — that we not only recover through the love of Jesus but we become deeper and wiser souls after heartbreak hits. The healing and growth that follows our devastation is Jesus’ love rushing to our presence.

Another caution: That is not why it happened! Our suffering is not sent by the Lord! The devastations of life are the result of our living in a broken world. We are all vulnerable and victimized by the weaknesses of nature and even the sinfulness of humanity: carelessness, envy, indifference, spite, jealousy, and much more. These things are the source of much of our woundedness, and, of course, much is also connected to our natural mortality.

This then is how it is: We live in a world where we experience a lot of pain, distress and heartache all the time. But our loving Lord, and God’s love in many loving people, is always rushing to be present with the hurting. In its own mysterious and undefined way, healing happens. And a lot more . . . which we silently embrace in our hearts. Love helps people grow beyond where they were before they were shattered and broken.

The strongest people in the world are those who have recovered from personal pain. And we quietly thank our good Lord for that. It is no doubt simplistic to quote here an old elementary saying, but this one fits so perfectly: "once burned twice cautious". While there are abundant exceptions, it is a law of life implanted by God in our spirits. We grow and gain wisdom from mistakes, accidents, and heartbreaks. No one skates two times on thin ice. A dog bite is an educational event. Many a soul carries a Master’s Degree earned by the mistakes they have made.

Disabled by a major stroke , my friend, Ted, was sidelined for months from his active life as an executive. Today, several years later, Ted has mastered the computer world and created a service business more lucrative and satisfying than his original work. In my life as a Pastor, such stories have trickled in for decades, testifying to the helping, healing love of the Lord.

The sterling truth we embrace from this reality is that we are all called to reach out in loving kindness and compassion to the injured, broken, and suffering. The hurting seldom need our advice or warnings. They all need a word of sympathy, a sentence of understanding, a smile of care, a tear of empathy, a touch of kindness, a hug of love, personal prayer. Phone calls, e-mail messages, notes in the U.S. Mail, are medicine of the best kind. And a touch, a smile, a hug connected to brief words like "I heard about your accident," (illness, injury, grief etc.) or "You are in our prayers".

Doing the things I just listed are so simple, so easy! Please don’t overlook them or discount their value. Each of these ideas is an act of kindness that you can offer. They show that you care.

Here is my own testimonial about how pain helped me to grow. When I was about 45 years old I developed a severe back pain from playing too much racquet-ball. I competed weekly with my younger brother and could seldom beat him two out of three games. And the challenge slowly began taking its toll on my body. At first the pain would go away in about a week but gradually healing did not happen. I began to live with constant back pain and sports came to an end. I tried everything. Every M.D. or professional body-person was consulted—to no avail. I walked miles believing that might help. The pain endured.

A friend mentioned asking another friend, Judy, to try healing prayer. That was Judy’s private ministry, which I had noticed and was somewhat fascinated by, but regarded as irregular and a little strange. It did not strike me as an option for me.

But the pain endured.

Finally, my mind changed. We called Judy. After two times with prayerful laying on of hands, with a couple of other friends present, the pain slipped away. Totally. There has not been a hint of pain in thirty-five years. My back was healed and my mind and belief system deepened, enlarged, modified. My spiritual outlook is now much richer. I was not only healed, I also grew spiritually. An unwanted distress was turned into an enormous growth experience.

That is how it is. Bad things happen, and we care for those who are injured or broken. And we silently and confidently trust that the good Lord will bring healing and often profound growth to the injured souls.

 


Care Capsule Issue 52

 

 

 

It Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

 

by Craig Bourne

 

 

 

The vision of the Care and Kindness Campaign that Jim Kok teaches is to awaken people to how simple it is to make the world better. How possible it is for every single person to do things that make a difference to the people around them.

When you think about it, why do you suppose we continually make things more complicated than they need to be? Why does it seem so easy to overlook the simple things?

You can do the simple things—most people can do the simple things. Actually, EVERYBODY can do the simple things. So why do we scoff at things that are simple?

In our culture, I fear that the word ‘simple’ means something that is easily overlooked or dismissed.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to BE monumental to have a monumental impact. You don’t have to go to a third-world country! You don’t have to be another Mother Theresa! You don’t have to organize another soup kitchen in your community! Those things are all wonderful, and it is necessary that some people do those kinds of things, but if they’re not in your nature, or in your calling, don’t despair. Don’t feel like a ‘second best’ citizen.

Gentle offers of kindness, in a myriad of little ways, affect others deeply. So, let’s be kind! Simple things make a difference. They very often make a BIG difference.

Take three simple ideas: 1.) Greet people warmly, 2.) Make eye contact, 3.) Act friendly. Fold these three actions into your regular way of treating people around you, and observe how it changes the day for them—and for you.

We hear countless stories —you’ve undoubtedly heard many yourself — about how a simple greeting, or a smile, or an acknowledgment had a significant impact on someone. Most times, it happened without the giver being particularly aware of what was happening. It was later that they found out how that one instance of a simple gift of treating someone kindly was so important to the recipient.

You say, ‘But I already do those things.’ Well, then, you are a blessed gift giver! Keep doing them!

But . . . do you do it as much as you could? Do you think you probably do it as an automatic behavior to people around you? Or does it actually happen less frequently than you think? That’s the point of this lesson. It’s so simple to do these things that we perhaps take them for granted.

Jesus — God, speaking to us in the person of Jesus — was trying to tell us in many different ways that it is simple. He just wants us to love each other. He calls us to loving kindness. We must fully grasp that message from Jesus.

It’s simple — Be kind to people, every day. And there’s the rub. You say, ‘Be Kind’? Isn’t everyone already?

I’m reminded of a woman years ago, who, upon being invited to attend a Kindness Event, questioned why she should go. Questioned why she would need to go. "I’m the kindest person I know," she said. And to me, those words signaled that she didn’t truly understand what we were talking about. In the same way that a humble person doesn’t talk about how humble she is, neither does a person who offers gifts of kindness easily.

Let’s pause for a moment and approach this from a different angle.

Do you see how thick the Bible is — how many pages there are in it — and then see it as a giant Rule Book? Do you mentally catalog all the ‘shoulds’ that you read in its pages? Are you also aware of all the ‘thou shalt nots’ that are found there? Who can keep all of those rules in mind!

Or do you see that reading the Bible with an over-arching understanding that all these restrictions we are reading are not ‘rules’ from God; they are not lists of ways to be good Christians; they are formulas to make others and ourselves happy.

That’s astounding, compared to what we have understood in the past! Let’s take Gratitude as an example. We get the message from our Bible studies that we are supposed to be grateful. We are supposed to be thankful. But why?

Why should we show gratitude? Is that what makes God happy? Is that what will make us appear as better persons in His eyes? Are we better, more faithful Christians when we live a life of gratitude?

Or . . . is it that living that way makes life better for us while we live here on earth?

Yes! It makes us happier. It makes us healthier!

This phenomenon has been researched extensively in a variety of public universities. Professor Robert Emmons, from California State University-Davis, is the leading student of this timeless biblical behavior. His research did not examine it as a biblical idea, but as a common human activity. In his book, Thanks, Dr Emmons, who is a Christian, reports on the UC Davis research into the practice of thoughtful gratefulness and the discovery of the accrual of benefits that come from gratitude.

According to Emmons, the words ‘diligently thankful’ mean regularly listing, reflecting, and focusing on specific items, actions, inventions, experiences in nature, with people, places, or articles. Those who made a daily practice of consciously calling to mind, remembering, and even writing down what they were grateful for were healthier and happier. They got more sleep; they had fewer illnesses; they were more determined and enthusiastic. They had longer lives and closer family ties. They were more likely to have helped someone else; and they were perceived by others to be more generous and helpful.

Another research study was on people who were going through organ transplants. There were two groups of people at one university: one group was immersed and indoctrinated in the gratitude concept; the other was not. The results of the study showed that people who were actively working at gratitude actually healed faster.

Other groups have found that gratitude lessens depression. They have discovered that the antidote to mild depression is to immerse yourself daily in thankfulness and gratitude. They found that there are better heart rhythms, and that it affects your blood count and offers a whole lot of other benefits.

The point is that God / Jesus wants us to live a life of gratitude because it makes life better for us NOW. It’s not a way of earning points for the after-life; it’s not a way to get God to view us more favorably — it is the way to be more blessed each day that we wake up and are able to breathe for another twenty-four hours.

So, now, getting back to the main point of this commentary: Jesus’ teachings are ways to make life on earth better — for us . . . and for people around us. We can make life better for others by loving them. And then, to take it a step further, the way to love people is to be kind to them. Being kind is a simple act — it doesn’t have to be complicated!

An example: Offer compliments.

Yes, of course you compliment people—from time to time. But did you make an effort to offer a compliment to the checker in the grocery store today?

How long has it been since you offered a compliment to the mailman, or the UPS man at your door? Think about giving a compliment to the clerk at the post office when you go today.

Offering compliments is a simple way of being kind and showing love. Don’t let those people miss out on your gift because you were busy taking care of business!

Jim Kok’s book, The Miracle of Kindness, is packed with ideas of simple, practical things you can do to ‘raise the bar’ in your own efforts to dispense kindness. It has dozens of stories of what people have done. His book is a handbook, a reference book, to keep feeding yourself with ways you can improve the world around you by the little things you do.

Here’s one example from the book. A man said, "I just got back from a week-long cruise to Mexico. One of my friends on the cruise had a very hard time finding someone to come in to water and feed his dogs while he was gone . . . so I came up with my new good neighbor plan."

He sent out a letter to the twenty-four apartments in his complex that said, ‘Call me if you need someone to water and feed your cats or dogs, fish or birds while you are gone. I will walk your dogs if needed. Call me if you need indoor or outdoor plants watered while you are gone. Call me if you need a lift to or from the airport, or a lift to the car dealer — whatever. Call me for any other needs you have where a good neighbor can help.’

That is being kind. And it wasn’t complicated!

Do simple things. They make a difference!

Make a resolution to daily do a little more.

 

Finding a Coin Can Trigger Love

by Jim Kok

Positive experiences are spiritual events. That is, something heart-warming or supportive that happens to us is more than just something pleasant. We are changed, in a positive direction, by such occurrences.

One fascinating experiment pointed nicely in this direction. Researchers placed a few coins in the coin return of a classic old pay-phone. Just a little change, like nickels, dimes and quarters, in a public area where people always passed.

What happened was predictable. Folks walking by would put their fingers in the coin return to check if there might be something accidentally left there by a careless phone user. And sure enough some of them, but not all, found something!

The next part of the experiment was a ‘manufactured’ crisis that was set up nearby. An elderly woman was struggling to pick up the contents of her push-cart that had tipped over, creating a mess and troubling the aged cart pusher.

The response of the coin checkers proved meaningful. Those who had found a coin or two all stopped to help the upset woman. Those who found nothing just kept on going without lending a hand.

What made the difference? Why did some people stop to help and others did not? The ‘good luck’ of finding a few coins had a ripple effect of passing on the goodness. If mindlessly finding a coin can trigger love, or an act of kindness, it is obvious how beneficial a smile, a compliment, or a word of appreciation and admiration, really is.

Each of these simple acts can start a ripple effect. A small act of kindness can cause the receiver to do the same for someone else. And . . . as the old commercial used to say . . . and so on, and so on, and so on.

Goodness is from God. So when good times pass our way, we are being caressed and nurtured by God, whether we know it or not. Such times can lift our spirits, nourish our souls and make us more loving, and a lot more.

Health, happiness, love, compassion, and much more is a fringe benefit of receiving a tidbit of loving-kindness, of enjoying a delicious meal, or having any ‘mountain top’ thrill — even simply finding a coin.

Obviously finding a coin was spirit lifting. Whether we can say it was heart-warming or cheering or inspiring doesn’t matter. The evidence showed that no matter what we call it, it had a positive effect on the one who found something. It seems safe to say it triggered loving-kindness in them.

The experiment proves the value of our Care and Kindness campaign. Every little touch is life-affecting goodness flowing from Jesus through us into others. And it changes the recipient! It begins a ripple effect. Loving kindness is good for people; good for humanity; good for the world.

How many ripples can you start today?


Care Capsule Issue 26

Carpe Diem

by Judy Gustum

“Carpe Diem”, a memorable phrase from the movie “Dead Poets Society”, means to grab an opportunity when it presents itself. Carpe Diem is a phrase that we can apply as ambassadors of Care and Kindness. Carpe Diem is what we have to do—or all our good works will never happen. Carpe Diem! I challenge you to turn your good intentions into deeds!

We all have gifts and we are all called to use them. We must resolve to employ those gifts and to actively observe and respond to the critical needs of people around us. Here are a few practical steps to get you started on the path that leads to feeling more comfortable with Carpe Diem. Follow these steps and you’ll find it easier to just do it.

First, pray about your talents; and pray for opportunities to use them, and then make a commitment—a commitment to God and to yourself that you will live your life differently, so that you can be a light in another person’s life.

 Your commitment should have three parts to it: Observe, Respond and Pay it Forward.

Basically, Observe means to lift your head up, look around, and see what is really happening around you.

  • Practice being a people watcher.
  • Improve your eye contact.
  • Look for a need in people’s eyes.
  • Look for people who seem to be hanging back.
  • Look for people who are hungry for a compliment, a hug, someone to talk to or someone who will listen.
  • Be alert to the difference between what people say (their words) and how they say it.

Careful observation will reveal to you people who are alone, in the dark, and needing someone else’s strength to get them through the day. These are your daily opportunities to share the love of God.

After you’ve gotten better at Observing, push yourself to Respond. When you see a need, big or small, then leap into action and do something about it. And, if you are uncertain or afraid (as we all are), pray first, get professional help, if needed, but then get to it with an appropriate response!

To prepare yourself in advance for being better at responding, make a list of the ways you could do it. Here are some suggested tools for responding—see if you can add to the list. Although they are simple and easy to do, we frequently don’t do them! We simply are not intentional or we are too preoccupied, or else we have forgotten what a boost our behavior can be for others.

Smile. Not enough people do this; they frown. Often they don’t even realize that they are frowning. Think about your normal expression. How about right now? If someone looked at you, what would he read from your face? I sometimes have a “set” to my jaw. I clench my teeth and when people see it, they know something is wrong in my world. Sometimes when I am engrossed in thinking about something, others assume that I am upset because of the furrow across my brow. As a result, I consciously work to create a more pleasant look on my face. I try to keep the edge of my mouth upturned rather than too relaxed, which appears down or frowning.

Practice common courtesy. Common courtesy is NOT common! Thank strangers as well as friends, when they do something nice. Speak to people. Say hello. Use eye contact in order to connect and to observe more about people and their feelings. Use compliments liberally; rejoice with another who has done well at something, big or small. Also, don’t forget about courtesy on the road. Slow down and practice the same good manners behind the wheel that you would on a sidewalk.

Build UP, Not Tear Down. Last fall, I asked my 5-year-old granddaughter, Hannah, what she learned on her first day in Kindergarten. She thought for a moment; then with big saucer eyes, she told me, “No put-downs!” To her, that meant to be respectful and courteous of her fellow classmates. WOW! On the very first day of school they were being taught a crucial life lesson.

Share. Whatever you have—a joke, a smile, yourself, your time, your tears, your support—share it. Share your joy, because it’s infectious. Your joy will build others up when they are short on joy. You will be a light for them.

Pray. Pray for opportunities to share Care and Kindness and to pray for those in need. I have learned there is a big difference in the response I get when I tell someone I will pray for them, rather than that secular phrase, “I’ll be thinking of you.” But when you promise to pray, you must do it.

Communicate.  Communication is a two-way process, NOT just one-way. People are starved for real communication that is done with others. Communication is a “take turns” game—you speak, I speak, and we share ideas, feelings, and stories back and forth.

It is sad to note that we do too many things alone. When we e-mail friends, we are typically having a one-sided conversation, a monologue, or narration—unless we ask questions, inquire about them, and invite MORE dialogue. If e-mails are a primary source of contact in your family, remember—there needs to be a reply. Even “forwards” need to be acknowledged at some point.

We need to invite communication, whether it is face-to-face, in a card, or a letter, or on the computer. We will succeed at communicating if we engage the other person. But we have to have an interest in people and their lives and then create the environment for them in which they will be comfortable enough to respond and to share more of themselves.

Another tip for successful responding is to use the written word! Send letters, thank you notes, and cards when you cannot be face-to-face. (The simple act of writing a letter, putting a stamp on it, and mailing it, is a lost art.) Read the obituaries in the newspaper or your church bulletin or whenever you get news that calls for an immediate response—and then make contact.

Always have sympathy and get well cards on hand, because you must be timely when an accident, surgery, illness, or a death occurs. If you don’t have cards, it’s far too easy to put off, to forget, or worse, to not to do it at all. And these are those Care and Kindness opportunities that you prayed for.

I recommend you buy BLANK note cards. And while you’re at it, select more than one pattern or style. It doesn’t seem right to send a note card with spring flowers on it in the dead of winter! Why blank cards? Because you can say far better and more sincerely your wishes and greetings than the Hallmark card makers. Buy blank ones (so you are ready) and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, if you use a card that has a poem or greeting already in it, add a personal note.

When someone has died, nearly every sympathy card at the store speaks of cherished times with that person and that relationships and special moments will live on in your memories. But…think about this! There is nothing more poignant than a hand-written recollection from someone who knew your loved one—a note from someone who cared enough to tell you by writing it down and to share that unique memory. Your handwritten words might be cherished enough to be saved and reread again and again. Practice writing these notes and become accomplished. Just do it! The responses you will receive will warm your heart for a long time and soon the art of the handwritten note will be second nature to you.

The third part of our commitment is the concept of Paying it Forward. The phrase 'Pay It Forward' is well known. (It was first a book, and then a movie.) It has been the literary project adopted by many cities and towns across America. The concept of Pay It Forward is that a person does something nice for three people and they each do something nice for three more. As the chain continues, good things grow exponentially and the world becomes a better place. And that is what we as Ambassadors of Care and Kindness are after, right?

I challenge you to consider how you can Pay it Forward. We need to teach our family members, our children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends, how to pass on good Christian behavior. We need to model this behavior—ever mindful that we are someone’s role model, whether we know it or not. We influence people’s lives every day, and our goal should be that our influence will be positive—not negative. If we Pay It Forward, modeling positive behaviors, and emulating Jesus, we are evangelizing and showing the world that we are Christians by our love.

Let’s make the commitment to live our lives differently—starting now—to change our priorities from self to others—to be a light for someone in darkness and to use our gifts in service. Carpe Diem!

 

Thoughts Generate Chemicals - January 27, 2017

An Olympic Athlete Trainer says this:

There are four negative feelings or thoughts that produce toxic chemicals in the brain. They are Hate, Greed, Fear, and Jealousy. To get his athletes to do better, he says they must change these to Love, Generosity, Courage, and Praise.

He claims that service to others is one of the best ways to move into the healthy context. Doing this has proven to be effective in producing the winning edge.

Interesting discovery. Thoughts produce chemicals, and positive thoughts produce positive chemicals. Of course, there is a time for sorrow and vexation, but they must not dominate, or they will infect.

So we would do well to ponder this and to reflect on what our own thoughts are. Granted, we cannot control our feelings. We may have a feeling of sadness come upon us. We didn't seek to feel sad, but it is nevertheless how we are feeling. Likewise, we cannot control a feeling of urgency, or franticness, or frustration, or anger. These feeling come unbidden.

But . . . and this is the key! . . . we CAN control our thoughts. Our thoughts can change our feelings. Thoughts produce chemicals. Consciously entertaining a thought of Love can absolutely affect your feelings toward another person. Deciding to think thoughts of praise about another person, of God, or of particular circumstances will — they WILL — begin changing in your feelings.

 

 

 

 

The Truth about Kindness - January 20, 2017

Kindness is a very homely virtue. This is using the word 'homely' in the British sense of belonging to the home—a very commonplace, ordinary virtue. And yet it is as ordinary as salt, and as essential as salt. Without kindliness, there is no virtue in the other virtues. It puts a flavor into all the other virtues; without it they are insipid and tasteless; or worse, they degenerate into vices.

Love, joy, peace, good temper—without kindliness, they are very doubtful virtues.

To grow in kindliness is to grow in virtues that are flavored with a certain spirit. The spirit of kindliness pervades everything. A little boy explained the difference between kindness and loving-kindness this way: "Kindness is when your mother gives you a piece of bread and butter, but it is loving-kindness when she puts jam on it as well."

Jesus expressed it this way: "Treat one another with the same spirit as you experience in Christ Jesus" Not merely the same actions, but the same spirit in the actions as was in Jesus' actions. This is the high water of morality in this universe. Beyond this, the human race will not, and cannot, progress. This is character and conduct ultimate. This gives kindness a plus—an infinite plus.

Thus, kindness is not mere maudlin sentimentality. Kindness is a vital, must-have ingredient of all we do. To be kind to a person is to care for the person. That's what we emphasize in our mission: Care AND Kindness! The two are so much the same and they do go together.

God's kindness to us can sometimes seem severe—severe because He loves so deeply; He cares so much. But with His severity, there is security. He loves us too much to let us go.

"Go Thou and do likewise." Someone said that once! Be kind to everyone. Demonstrate in your daily living that you care what happens to people around you. Grow in your kindliness.

 

 

 

 

Hopeful vs Hopeless - January 13, 2017

Disability Builds Faith

Popular opinion holds that a disabling life event is likely to destroy a person's faith. A research project studying 26 men and women who had acquired permanent disabilities relegating them to wheelchair living revealed the opposite:
     53% found their faith was increased by their disability.
     31% "kept their faith" despite the challenges of disability.
     8% found faith through their disability.
     8% described their faith as "uncertain".
     0% lost their faith.

Reactions of the individuals:

1. God-believers experienced God as a 'presence' - someone to talk to, to question, someone who listens.

2. God's help was described as providing, protecting, giving strength, endurance and patience, and understanding their struggles and caring about them.

3. Several believed that God somehow gave them their disability but they did not feel bitter or betrayed.

4. All indicated that 'talking to people gave meaning to their lives.' They agreed that feeling 'lonely' and 'different' is common.

The Wheelchair:
     46% (12) hate the wheelchair and want to get out of it.
     31% (8) said they accepted wheelchair living.
     23% (6) were ambivalent. They both hate it and accept it.
     100% agreed that "to walk again" is a dream that never leaves.
     69% (18) express a hopeful attitude.
     8% held hopeless feelings
     23% were mixed with both hopeful and helpless feelings

I find this information to be very interesting. We sympathize with, and feel sorry for, people we see who are dealing with a disability of some sort. This is a natural first reaction. But we should not let those thoughts create a barrier for communication and relationship between us. That would be the sad part. Too often, we feel awkward, and we feel sorry for a person and leave it at that. We don't pursue a connection.

What can you do? 

Well, note #4 above: they all felt that meaning was added to their lives by being able to talk to people. So . . . you can talk to them, listen to them, draw them out. And always keep in mind that most of these folks have a sense of hope (not hopelessness.) 'Hope' means not giving up. Hope is fueled by a faith in God. Hope blossoms when friends and family are close, supportive and encouraging.

 

 

 

 

Your Role in God’s Healing Touch - January 7, 2017

There is more to prayer than talking and crying out to Jesus. Often there is a hurting friend we are thinking of and concerned about when we bow our heads or lift up our faces God-ward. What happens is that our Christ–directed concerns, pleas, and anxieties not only touch the Lord, but, while impacting the heart of Jesus, they also flow through us to the one for whom we are praying.

In other words, it is the Spirit of Jesus flowing through each of us as we thoughtfully ask the good Lord for help and healing. Such helping is not only coming directly from the good Lord — it is flowing from Jesus back to and through each of us as we care for a hurting person.

The reality of the Spirit of Jesus living with us and in us calls us to prayer, but also loving kindness to those around us. We are His instruments, his care-givers. We are not just people who cry for help—we are carriers of Jesus’ healing love. A personal prayer for a troubled friend is sending the healing love of Jesus into them.

This is a profound concept: Jesus is the one doing the healing, but we also play a role by praying for our friend. Our prayers call down God’s healing love. You are a vital link in the process.

May I say it again?! You are vital link in the process. Of course, God knows the situation already. Of course, God cares for the hurting person already. But your prayers connect you, the person, and God in a wonderful three-fold relationship. He can work wonders that you cannot imagine as you share with God your concerns for the person. God wants you to be a part of the process.