Christmas kindness, every day

A Christian Science perspective: Everyone in the world can feel and be moved by God’s love throughout the Christmas season and beyond.

World Kindness Day was Nov. 13. A “random acts of kindness” event, #RAKFriday2017, was Nov. 24. A social media search with that hashtag and #CaptureKindness uncovers instances of people sharing inspirational quotes; buying goodies, meals, and fuel for neighbors and strangers; cleaning public spaces; and so on. This month, students in a public school near where I live are focusing on engaging in deliberate, daily acts of kindness. In February, another organization is encouraging people to take up the practice of kindness for a whole week.

What else might it take for kindness to become less random and more of an ongoing practice? Even when people know that they should be kind, it’s not always so easy to pull off consistently. Bad news, frustration, and the sheer busyness of daily life can threaten to drain kindness from our interactions.

A recent Monitor editorial highlights the country of Singapore, which initiated a Kindness Movement in 1997 (“Measuring the kindness of strangers,” CSMonitor.com). According to the editorial, officials recognize that kindness must be heartfelt and “is built out of humility, integrity, and patience.” That acknowledges a deeper source of kindness than just a mandate or an on-again, off-again remembering to be nice. How can we tap into that depth of character that makes for a more sincere and consistent kindness and more reliable results?

Some thoughts about Christmas are helpful to me. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Monitor, wrote: “The basis of Christmas is the rock, Christ Jesus;... is love loving its enemies, returning good for evil, love that ‘suffereth long, and is kind’ ” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 260). The latter phrase is quoted from First Corinthians 13, a section of the Bible that the New Revised Standard Version titles “The Gift of Love.” The enduring, gracious love it describes is the foundation of the very qualities called for by the Kindness Movement.

That foundational, spiritual love isn’t something we generate on our own: it is a gift from the God that is Love itself and created us as the spiritual expression of His love. This is particularly evident in the advent and life of Christ Jesus.

Jesus emphasized his oneness with God, Love. His teaching, healing, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension all showed how love that has its source in divine Love is powerful enough to overcome all types of evil. We can celebrate Christmas with a recognition that as children of God, we, too, are one with our Father-Mother. We are joint heirs to that lovingkindness that unceasingly flows from God to and through us. No matter what religion (or none) we may identify with, everyone in the world can feel and be moved by God’s infinite love throughout the Christmas season and every day.

This doesn’t mean we give up confronting evil. In fact, divinely impelled kindness helps counter hate and anger. I remember overcoming many difficult situations, including illness and injuries, through the empowering realization that I didn’t have to stop loving – ever – because divine Love is always present. A growing body of research shows that I’m not alone in experiencing the beneficial effects of kindness on health and well-being. We all have the ability to naturally exercise the great gift of kindness and in particular to let God’s love inspire, reform, and heal us, no matter what. Of course I’m still working at doing this, day by day.

It is no wonder people are increasingly calling for, experiencing, and expressing – in body, mind, spirit, word, and deed – a lovingkindness that is God derived. May all open their hearts to the already given gift of innate kindness, which endures in the face of the most challenging circumstances, is never wasted, overcomes selfishness and hatred, and enriches our affections. The healing power of God’s overflowing love bathes us all in goodness at every moment.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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