I was talking about legacy and life and what we will be remembered for with my friend Kristi during a recent bicycle ride, and she said that when she dies she wants her kids and others to remember one thing that she told them: Be kind.
And I couldn’t agree more.
Just be kind.
I’d add, just love. And forgive and be humble and think of others and let people know you care.
She says that Being Kind summarizes all of the other ones.
Love is . . . kind.
I have a little wooden “Kindness” plaque that hangs in the kitchen on the wall that leads to the garage. It is the door my kids leave from when they leave for work and school everyday. I placed there on purpose to remind my kids and my husband and me to be kind. To let kindness be our motto, our philosophy, our value, the way we live our lives. Our family culture. What we are known for.
I remember when Rachel was in middle school there was a girl name Sarah who was a couple of years younger than her. The mom of Sarah said to me that she noticed how kind Rachel was to her daughter. I do not remember the detail of what Rachel had done to earn that compliment, but I will always remember that someone said that about my only daughter.
Different parents over the years have said this about my other kids, that my kids were nice to their sons or daughters.
It matters. How we treat others, and we need to communicate that to our children, and we need to live that out ourselves.
In Proverbs 19:22 it says, “ What is desirable in a man is his kindness,” and in Colossians 3:12 we read: “As God’s chosen people. . . clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” And of course the fruit of the Spirit noted in 1 Corinthians 13 includes Kindness right behind, “Love, joy, peace patience…” And in Romans 2:4 it says that the “kindness of God leads us to repentance.”
In college my friend Annie served in an organization that reached out to students with developmental delays and Annie began to bring a girl name Cathie to Campus Crusade for Christ. I became friends with Cathie. Cathie had a heart of gold and loved our college ministry and connection. A few months later Cathie was in tears because she had never felt so much love from a group in her life; her mom abandoned her as a child and she was raised in foster homes and struggled much of her life. So when she found our group she told us that we were kind to her and accepted her just as she was.
My Omi in Deutschland was kind to me. I loved her so much. She paid attention to me and to my kids. She was present. She lived life to the full and she loved my kids. And I only got to see her every few years growing up as she lived in Germany. But, she showed kindness.
There is something about the word. It is an internal quality that manifests itself external actions. It can be a smile, a wave, a let-someone-ahead-in-the-grocery line. It can be a phone call, a knock on the door, a “hey, I’m thinking of you,” text. It’s the age old mantra maybe your kindergarten teacher or your mom used to say: “just be nice.”
Kindness is something we can teach our kids. Yes, it is a fruit of the Spirit, and when we are filled with God’s Spirit, it is something that should flow from us. But it is also something that we need to constantly remind our kids to be. Be kind. Be nice.
How do you want to be remembered? Because people will remember you for something. They will remember your attitude towards them and life and they will remember your actions towards them and others. Were you patient, were you rude, did you accept them, did you notice them, did you say nice things to them?
I think about my college advisor and biology professor Dr. Hauck. She noticed that my grades were going downhill in her class and so she called me into her office and asked me if everything was okay. Things were not okay. I in fact was going through a hard time with my major at the time and was thinking of switching to English. Pre-med was just not for me after all. Dr. Hauck’s action – taking the time to notice me — showed me she cared. Actions matter. It’s all part of kindness.
I also recall a vice principal at Cleveland High School who also was kind to me. I didn’t do very well in my PSAT test and was pretty disappointed in myself, so I went to his office to talk to him about it, and he said to me that I have other qualities and to remember that other characteristics matter as well; he reminded me that I served on student leadership council and I wrote for the school newspaper and I worked hard in my classes and I ran cross-country and I started a Campus Life Club and I was in the choir. And I tried to be nice to everybody. My vice principal made me feel valued by encouraging in what I was doing in my life and to this day I still remember that conversation.
It is interesting because when I was in fifth grade, I was mean to a girl named Tracy. My friend Donna and I were just not nice to her, but then in sixth grade my friend Donna moved away and I was all alone, and it was payback time. Tracy’s friends ganged up on me and were mean to me. I still remember that. So, in seventh grade, I made the deliberate decision to try to be nice to everyone. You know a lot as a 13-year-old. And as I started high school I determined to try to be kind to everyone. Kids know what they are doing in so many ways. Ten years later at our first reunion, students said to me that they remember me being nice. There can be no better compliment than that. Kindness.
Just be kind. Be radically kind. Make that what you wear, your fashion statement, your life philosophy.
And what you are remembered for.