For those who know me, they know that the scripture Micah 6:8 is very meaningful for me. I quote it as my email signature and I have it tattooed on my left forearm. What does God require from you? To seek justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with God. And for most who know me for who I am, knows that my default setting is in and around the ‘seek justice’ part of this scripture. As the Chair of our Board recently commented, ‘Vicki, you are often consternated!’
I’m not totally sure that I walk humbly with God. Or if I even really know HOW to do that. I would say that when I start thinking I AM walking humbly with God, that is the exact moment I’m likely not doing it properly. At. All. So, I recognize that this walking humbly with God is a constant learning for me. As I would think is true of anyone truly trying to walk a faith-filled life.
Which brings me to loving kindness. I can truly say that I LOVE kindness a whole lot. But I have a feeling that is not the intent of Micah’s reply. I would hazard a guess that Micah had hoped that in the loving kindness, one would also BE kind. And that’s the more difficult action than simply loving the kindness, isn’t it? When one is often consternated, kindness can be forgotten or set aside more than one would like to admit. However, if you were to look at the images I save on social media, most refer directly to being kind. My favourite is: In a world where you can be anything, be kind. That’s it. Pretty straightforward instructions. Just BE kind.
Why is that so hard most days? Why do we always seem reminding to be kind? Cause we’re too busy? Too distracted. Too rushed? To put upon by the world? Why does it feel, on some days, like it’s WORK to be kind?
This past Sunday was a day that, if you knew my trials and tribulations, you would have expected me to be a bit grumpy, even downright irritable to anyone I encountered. I had spent the week on study leave at the Festival of Homiletics in San Antonio, TX. A delayed flight on Saturday caused a missed connection so my flight home from San Antonio was canceled until early Sunday. For a couple of reasons and having the option before me, I had my itinerary rerouted to Vancouver rather than Calgary. The plan was to arrive in Vancouver before noon and to hang out with my eldest son for the rest of the day and then we would both fly home to Calgary later in the evening.
On Sunday, my alarm woke me up at 4 am. Something about the day – maybe I wasn’t fully awake, maybe I was already worn out – made me decide to not be annoyed as I moved through my day of traveling—it wasn’t anyone’s fault at this point in the trip that I couldn’t leave the day before. This feeling of being intentionally kind (or, at the very least, intentionally avoiding being unkind) was reinforced at my first boarding gate. A fellow passenger was unnecessarily rude to another traveler despite that person doing nothing that warranted the level of unpleasantness. And I think it helped that when I sent out text messages asking for prayers, in somewhat joking way, a dear friend immediately texted back a loving prayer for me and Stephen included me in the prayers for the community during worship.
As weather caused one delay after another, as my flights became all scrambled up, as I dealt with customer service agents for two airlines (both in person and on the phone), the day got more and more complicated. I spent ALL DAY getting from San Antonio to Houston, via Dallas. For those of you who know Texas, you know that is sort of a ridiculous thing.
At one point, this guy in front of me in a line up for customer service, was pacing back and forth. He kept saying to his wife, ‘I just need to go get something done, I just need to get something done.” And I knew exactly what he meant. Standing in line for two hours without knowing what solution might finally be presented is a very difficult thing. Difficult to not get annoyed. Difficult not to raise your voice in frustration. Difficult not to cuss out loud a little bit. Being patient and waiting is hard work. But I did it. I was patient. I waited. And when I spoke, I spoke kindly.
I was kind even when the two children were behaving like orangutans at another customer service desk. I can say this because I have had direct knowledge of orangutans acting in such a manner as these two children who had an incredible amount of pent up energy. I was kind in that I concentrated VERY hard on remembering that they must be feeling as squirrely as I felt but they could get away with doing gymnastics on the seats. Right. Beside. The. Desk. I was kind when I overheard the flight attendants say a passenger wanted an aisle seat. I was in an aisle seat. I didn’t care if I had the aisle or not. So I offered to swap seats.
Delay after delay had many customer service agents helping me to the best of their ability. Between them all, my itinerary was changed another two times to get me home. After I explained my saga to one service agent and told him how proud I was of myself that I had not uttered even ONE cuss word yet that day, he walked around the counter and took me gently by the elbow. “Ma’am,” he said, “let me show you exactly where your next gate is.” He was not the only one. West Jet listened with sympathy to my tale of woe and fully refunded my flight once it was apparent I would miss the Vancouver-Calgary flight and I was rerouted to Calgary instead. I wasn’t charged for the beer I treated myself to on my last flight because I had offered up my aisle seat.
But the best part of the whole day (with the notable exception of walking through the doors at customs in Calgary to see my dear hubby, my third son AND my eldest son—who had flown home himself from Vancouver and, because HIS flight was delayed, had landed just before me) was listening to the little girl and her grandma having a ball in the last boarding lounge. The grandma had her granddaughter on her lap and they were doing something together that had the little girl giggling with abandon. I looked over to make eye contact with the grandma and gave her a huge grin because her little angel was absolutely delightful.
I spent the flight home thinking back over my very long, nearly 24-hour day and I realized that I had managed to be kind. Throughout the whole day. Like it was my default setting. I didn’t do it for any reward. I did it because I knew my day was already shot—I might as well make it more pleasant by not being angry or feeling victimized. I knew that the delayed flights were not human error—they were weather related. And everyone was fed up. Might as well choose to give everyone the benefit of the doubt rather than assume they were out to get me. In a world that I can be nearly anything, on this past glorious Sunday, I chose to be kind.