You won’t believe this, but do know who came to mind as I watched some of the January 6th committee hearings that have been on TV lately?
Oddly enough, Fred Rogers.
As some of you know, I am a great admirer of Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers” fame. Having had him as my “neighbor” on TV when I was a kid, I appreciate him even more as an adult.
His message was simple: Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. I often draw from that well to this day in my ministry. This is crucial because, as we are seeing in our country today, the absence of kindness can lead to some very dark places, indeed.
Still, while most people like what Rogers had to say and what he stood for, he is often seen as timid or too quietly, syrupy sweet to make a real difference. Great for kids, but let’s leave it there.
The reason for that image isn’t just because of his sometimes awkward mannerisms or his reluctance to project his voice even in the slightest, it was because of the message itself.
In our culture, kindness is mistaken for weakness. Kindness is seen as the opposite of strength and, of course, it is a given that the strong get things done. The strong are the ones who matter. They shape and perpetuate cultural norms and the direction of society in general. The strong make sure we get where we need to go. Kindness? Sure, it’s nice but let’s not pretend it accomplishes anything.
Actually, I believe kindness is the best kind of strength. I think Fred Rogers, as a fellow clergyperson, knew that kindness was at the heart of Jesus’ message and believed, as I do, that—I’ll go out on a limb here—Jesus accomplished quite a lot with that message.
Kindness, in short, is everything. It is certainly the bedrock of the Kingdom of God.
On the surface, it can appear that kindness is unrealistic; that there are battles to be fought in this world and kindness can get in the way. But, in the end, isn’t the origin of every battle the absence of kindness toward ourselves or others? Winning those battles, then, is hollow unless kindness undergirds the struggle.
Kindness is important because every person you meet—every person—is fighting a quiet battle of one kind or another that you know nothing about.
Consequently, I believe everyone is in silent need of kindness, affirmation, and any sort of assurance that they are okay. You can provide that. You don’t have to know what their struggle is to pass on that kindness, affirmation, and assurance. You just have to offer it. You can offer it in subtle ways or overt ways; whatever the situation warrants.
Do your best to set aside the notion that your offering won’t be welcomed. Find the courage and just do it. A smile. A text. A listening ear. A compliment. A hug. A word. A “yes.”
Will it change the world? It may well change the world that person is living in. And that’s something, isn’t it? And who knows where that might lead?
Can kindness change the world? Fred Rogers seemed to think so. More importantly, Jesus seemed to think so.
And that’s good enough for me.
See you in church,