Disclaimer: This post is probably more for my processing and therapy than any other purpose. But hopefully you’ll find some value in it for yourself as well!
I cry sometimes. And when I cry, I’m well aware of the reason for the tears. Two recent events have again brought me to tears…feeling overwhelmed by the lack of kindness in the world.
I know I should not be surprised and I guess I’m not really, but it’s just more than I can take at the moment.
Maybe you feel the same…
It could be the political climate in our country and the corresponding ads. Or the refugee crisis around the world as we watch thousands of migrants marching away from dehumanizing poverty and violence. Or seeing your children get made fun of at school, on the bus, or in the dugout. Or ___________…
And what can you do about it?
This past weekend my family was attending a birthday party at a local park. As soon as we arrived, my kids headed straight for the playground to swing and slide as usual. While being my typical helicopter-parent self—staying within arms’ reach on the play structures—I noticed a boy sitting on the steps. He was pouting while holding his Mountain Dew, wearing a bright red nascar shirt and jeans. His hair was dark and uncombed; which seemed to match his disposition. (My kids’ hair also goes uncombed, unless they get caught in the grasp of a grandmother, so no judgement on his appearance—just trying to put you in the scene.)
As I passed by, I heard him mumble something under his breath. “Who cares if I’m too tall to ride the train?” he whispered bitterly. I don’t know what led to his state of sadness. Maybe someone told him was too old or too big to be riding the “kiddie rides” in the park. Maybe he came to this conclusion on his own.
Honestly, my first thought was that this kid is probably on track to be a “troubled child.” And that’s as much thought as I gave it…in the moment.
About 20 minutes later, my oldest son and I were throwing baseball next to the playground when I missed a throw that rolled several yards behind me. On my way to retrieve the ball, a red flash flew by me and beat me to it. It was the boy who had been pouting earlier on the playground!
I have enough emotional intelligence to know how this was going to play out. He obviously wanted to participate in our game of catch and, because I try my best to teach my children to be inclusive, we were happy to include him. He didn’t have a mitt so I let him use mine and went without one.
I asked him his name and his age. I asked him where he lived and with whom he had come to the park. He was an open book. His name is Aiden. He’s 10 years old. He was at the park with his “Pop Pop.”
Then the sad news…
He has an 18 year old sister and a 17 year old brother, but…
It’s the but that brought me to tears.
“But we don’t live together, because we’re separated, and we’re getting a divorce…again.”
I know I’m projecting a lot onto his situation…making assumptions about his family life, but either way…it’s never healing and wholeness that leads to a divorce, right?? Heartbreak and hurt are typically the recipe for broken relationships. Aiden was so matter of fact as he described his family situation. It was like he was telling someone else’s story. But it was his story.
Then a second event the day after…
My wife and I had just dropped off our two oldest at school and were on our way to drop the princess off when we noticed a road was blocked off by several police officers. “I wonder what’s going on,” Emily said. I went to Twitter and typed “Butler High School” in the search bar and there it was…a student shot by another student. Again, heartbreaking. Tragic!
We still don’t know all the facts and may never know, but whether the cause was bullying or a fight over a girl or whatever, the reason is not what’s most important and most certainly does not justify the end.
Then, to make matters worse, this grief I’m experiencing is further compounded by these events stirring up memories of my own adolescent antics. There were many, many occasions when I was unkind; which led to bullying or fights. Hopefully moments of me being unkind are growing fewer and farther between, but just the memories still illicit remorse.
Why? Why does it have to be this way?
Or does it?
What’s the real root cause of our lack of kindness? As easy and flippant as it sounds, the answer is sin. Unkindness is one way sin gets put on display. And I’m convinced that we all have a choice: will we put our sin on display or will we put love on display? Right now, in this moment, which will I put on display today?
The morning following these events I sent out the weekly email to my soccer team; which always includes a memory verse. Coincidentally (or not so much) this week’s verse was a word of advice from the apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica:
“Always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”
Image what the world might look like if we were always obedient to Paul’s advice…if we were intentional to teach it and to put it on display for our children. Certainly we can all make a choice to make life a kinder experience and just the thought of a kinder world helps to curb my lament.
Neither you nor I can fix the lack of kindness in our world. But we can choose kindness and we can be intentional to teach our children to do the same. I’ve been praying for Aiden. I’ll probably never see him again and I have a feeling that he will experience a lot of unkindness. But for a brief time, in a random park, he experienced kindness.