Friday, November 13, 2015

13 November is World Kindness Day
Hearts, kisses, habibties. Our text messages, emails and social media posts are full of fluffy warm fuzzies. Sure, those blow-a-kiss emoticons are cute. 

Every day I wake up with a conscious decision to love but it’s not that sunny bright feeling kind of love that warms our heart. The love I’m talking about here is based on the faith background I come from – Jesus and the apostles spoke about love but they never described it as a feeling. Love is presented to us as a choice, as a mind-set. 

In Paul’s characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13, every attribute involves acting out love, not feeling love. And when Jesus taught about love, He always described a conscious choice. John tells us Jesus “loved His disciples fully” right before Jesus started washing their feet, even the feet of the one who would betray him. 

As we commemorate World Kindness Day, I remember Paul’s letter to the Colossians (3:12), “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Not just on November 13th, or during Christmas season or the month of Ramadan, and not just with those who extend compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience to us. It’s not a point of weakness to love, to be kind – it comes from a place of strength and freedom. I will feel anger. I will feel pain but I choose not to act out of anger and pain. And this brings me peace. 

I may not blow you kisses or send you a heart-shaped box of chocolates. I may not sign off an email with a quickly, loosely worded “Love, Laura”. But you can trust that I won’t hold grudges. I won’t keep score. I won’t be vengeful or resentful. I will know the darkness in you (and in myself) but I will choose to also see, love and appreciate the light in you.

Family Flavours (November 2015)

Kindness to ALL
Muslim and Christian reflections on our spiritual health

We ask our religion experts to address the everyday issues that matter to you. This month, Noor Sa’adeh and Sonia Salfity stress the importance of practising kindness.

"Every act of kindness is a charity"

By Noor Sa'adeh, a Muslim Perspective

We all appreciate acts of kindness, particularly when they are unexpected. Offering acts of kindness to others is truly a win-win situation: the person you are being kind to benefits from your help and you feel good for having helped someone. With kindness, the world becomes a better place.

Very often, though, we feel we don’t have time for kind gestures. Here are some sweet and simple things we can do to practise this essential part of our faith. As Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said, “Every act of kindness is a charity” (Bukhari, Muslim).

*If someone owes you money, extend the time they have to pay you back or, better yet, forgive the debt altogether 
*Teach a child or new Muslim one short verse of the Qur’an 
*Encourage others to remember God and be patient when the going gets rough 
*Plant something edible! “If anyone plants something or sows seed from which a [person], a bird or an animal eats, it counts as a charity for him” (Bukhari, Muslim) 
*Help make peace between two people 
*Offer a drink, food, money, thanks or a smile to a worker 
*Help someone struggling with heavy bags 
*Say something nice to someone 
*Remove harmful things from the paths of others 
*Call your parents, spouse, children or friends to tell them you love them 
*Give an unexpected gift for no occasion 
*Praise the service you received from a waiter, nurse, mechanic or teacher 
*Refrain from backbiting by changing the subject 
*Visit a sick friend or relative 
*Take food to your elderly or sick neighbour 
*Wait your turn in line 
*Give a good tip 
*Hold the door for someone 
*Give up your seat for someone elderly or a person in need 
*Stop yourself from scolding a child who’s done something naughty but harmless 
*Let another driver take the parking spot 
*Supplicate for someone you are angry with 
*Forgive someone who has done you wrong 
*Make a donation to a cause or charity 
*Bite your tongue to stop yourself from saying something cruel 
*Give someone advice in a wise and gentle manner 
*Offer to hold a crying baby to give the parent a break 
*Thank every good driver on the road 
*Refrain from cursing the bad ones 
*Give charity to someone asking and speak to them for a moment. *A kind word may mean more than money! 
*Thank someone who helped you long ago 
*Put your phone away when talking to someone face to face 
*Buy something new? Give something else away 
*Don't interrupt others when they are speaking (this may be a tough one!) 
*Talk to someone who is shy 
*Engage a child who’s bored or acting naughty while his parents are busy 
*Share your favourite book 
*Hug a friend or relative whether they look like they need it or not (everyone can always use a hug) 
*Volunteer without expectation of reward or recognition 
*Treat all animals (God's creatures) kindly and compassionately 
*Carry simple food stuffs, outgrown clothing or shoes in your car to give to kids who beg at traffic lights 
*Offer an encouraging word 
*Be grateful at all times to God and others 

...and smile, smile, smile! It’s good for everybody!

"When I find myself with neither the desire nor the ability to share a kind word, I go back to our Lord and ask for more" 

By Sonia Salfity, a Christian Perspective

As I reflect on one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, namely kindness, I am fully aware that it's not easy to be kind to everyone all the time, especially to people who are plain mean! I’m thinking of that person who cut you off in traffic, almost causing a fatal accident, or someone who stole from you. I’m thinking of that person who lied to you or broke your trust. 

Relying only on my own strength, I'm only capable of being kind to those who extend kindness to me. However, if I draw on God's Holy Spirit, I can somehow extend kindness to the unlovable, unkind people. I'm not sure exactly how this works, but I do know it has something to do with seeing people through God's lens rather than my own. God made everyone, therefore He loves everyone. Think about how much we tolerate our own children, downplaying their negative attributes, yet how quickly we judge that same behaviour in someone outside our family. We pick and choose who to show kindness to, but as Christians, we are each called to put on our spiritual glasses and see in others what God sees in each of us.

A new freedom
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness," says Galatians 5:22. How beautiful it is when God shows us acts of kindness that are blind to race, colour, ethnicity, economic background and past records. Unconditional love expressed through kind acts is one of the most rewarding experiences. We are blessed with a new freedom when we do something for someone else with no expectations of reciprocation. This type of freedom doesn't hold our hearts hostage as we wait for that person's next move.

Extending kindness to others should never be based on how we feel but on how God feels. If we live in Christ and He lives in us, then it doesn't matter if others have wronged us in the past or if they will never appreciate our actions. What matters is that these acts of kindness serve to keep our spiritual circulation moving. They prevent the hardening of our soul's arteries. They ultimately save us from suffering from a debilitating clot that can potentially stop our hearts, which were made to love.

Expressing kindness in the presence 
Kindness comes in a variety of different packages. It might be a big act like forgiving someone's debt or paying off their loan. But it can also be expressed with small acts like sharing a bright smile or acknowledging someone with a heartfelt hello or a hug. It might be actually paying attention to someone after you ask how they're doing rather than daydreaming or thinking about what you're going to say next. These are simple gestures that are sadly becoming extinct. 

These days, it's becoming the norm for people to check their emails and text messages right in the middle of a conversation. To be fully present at any given moment is an act of kindness towards ourselves and others, for that very moment will soon pass and it can never be recaptured. If we aren't fully present, then we can’t be aware of subtle nuances like a person's body language and facial expressions or the pain in someone's eyes as they desperately pretend that they're doing just fine. When we are only halfway present, we are disrespecting ourselves and the people trying to connect with us. We are, in effect, cheating ourselves out of our lives.

“Clothe yourselves with compassion” 
When I find myself running on empty and have neither the desire nor the ability to share a kind word or a sweet embrace with one of God's beloved children, I go back to our Lord and ask for more. God's unlimited supply of grace and mercy refills my tank to an overflowing abundance of joy and peace to be shared with those He puts in my path. 

In his letter to the Colossians (3:12), Paul wrote, "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." When we are dearly loved, we can love dearly; that is how we experience the transforming power of God's kingdom here on earth. 

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