Updated: Aug 6
Sitting at the traffic light on the corner of Villa Road and 99W, I resorted to the well-worn habit of reading stickers on surrounding bumpers. Familiar bold words on the Ford's rear directly in front of me captured my attention.
The words are hardly new, with or without the clever spelling and winged insect, but this time I noticed the punctuation.
Be kind. Period.
There is context to any story, and I would love to describe mine in detail but I fear I would be failing in kindness to do so. It is enough to say I was as angry and wounded as I have ever been while sitting at that traffic light. Be kind, said the Ford. Period.
It's been 18 months since my encounter with that bumper sticker, and I keep staring at the period.
When our family gathered in Rockaway Beach for a few summer days, Lisa and I decided to have some sweatshirts made for the event. The words family, reunion, and McMinn were nowhere to be found on the shirts--just the prose from the bumper sticker, with the punctuation included.
Put eight adults and six children together for three days, each of them with their own stories, preferences, and sensitivities, and you get some practice at being kind. We did pretty well, though, and maybe the sweatshirts helped a little. Some folks who passed by, commenting on our shirts, seemed to think so.
Put six billion people together, each with our own narratives and traumas and struggles, most of us with robust psychological defenses to protect our fragile sense of self, and we need lots of help being kind. In our post-pandemic, polarized world, does it sometimes seem we're moving in the wrong direction? The inner clamor easily devolves into loud, angry polemics that drive us further from any true sense of understanding and peace. We fight better than we listen. Loud is easier than quiet.
I doubt we can fight our way out of these contentious days. It seems our best hope is inner transformation, learning to listen, to care, doing our best to understand the other and even to do the radical Jesus-like thing of loving our enemies.
Being kind is far more difficult than implied by popular memes or bumper stickers or sweatshirts, but sometimes it's the difficult things that are most important as we find our way forward. Period.