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         Kindness

by Elizabeth Foss

 It’s ordinary time.  As the school year and the Easter season came to a close, I decided it was time to bring a new order to my home.  I began with an ambitious idea, inspired by the book, Managers of Their Homes (www.titus2.com).  My goal was to schedule my day and my children’s days in order to assure that everything we wanted and needed to accomplish this summer had a time and a place.

          Honestly, I’ve looked at this book before and attempted to schedule my days into the suggested half hour time slots.  Each time, I have abandoned the idea after just a couple of days because, try as I may, I could not get “life” to conform.  I decided that a schedule wouldn’t work in my house, despite all the testimonies I’d read from mothers with families similar to mine.

          For some reason, when I picked up the book again, it struck a different chord.  I would use the schedule as a tool this time.  I would not be a slave to it; it would work for me. I took three days to plan this schedule and included school, chores and play time.  I was energized by the promise of an efficient, organized, productive summer. Within the first three days of completing the schedule, my daughter broke her arm, my oldest son seriously bruised his lower back (he’s my lift and carry guy), unexpected company arrived to stay for ten days, my husband left to produce the World Cup, and the company got the stomach bug from which we had all just recovered.

          In practice, my life looked nothing like the schedule on my refrigerator. There were times when I looked heavenward and asked, “Are you trying to tell me not to schedule anything?”  The truth is, the important things were accomplished. Our days didn’t conform to the blocks on the schedule-- I hadn’t thought to schedule two emergency room visits, an orthopedist visit, and the extra work of opening my home to people I’d never met.  Every once in a while I would glance towards the refrigerator door and recognize that I had done nothing on the schedule—except one thing.

          Every morning, without fail, I spent thirty minutes in my closet on my exercise bike reading The Hidden Power of Kindness by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik and praying fervently that I would be able to implement at least a little of what I read there.  I really believe that the message contained in that book has the power to transform lives.  I’m not sure if it was the exercise, the inspiration of the book or the prayer, but I am not terribly tired.  I am not discouraged.  And my life is not chaotic.  I strongly suspect it’s combination of all three.

          A schedule is a plan for how we’ll spend our time.  That plan is nothing but the work of man unless we offer each activity to the Lord.  That is how our time becomes holy and eternally worthwhile. The attitude that we bring to the schedule is much more important than the schedule itself.  I began to look at the interruptions as opportunities to practice charity, to live kindness.  Rather than being a slave to the schedule, my goal became one of service to the Lord.  The schedule was there to provide a framework, but my heart focused on seizing opportunities to practice kindness.

          Mother Teresa wrote, “Let us be reminded also of St. Therese of Lisieux who asked, ‘How can I show my love, since love is manifested in actions?’ She used to plant flowers: ‘I will not miss any sacrifice, any gesture of sensitivity, any word…Doing the smallest things out of love…I will always sing about it, even though roses are to be taken care of in the midst of thorns.  The larger and sharper the thorns, the sweeter my song will be.’ Our God needs our love, but he does not need our actions.  The same God who does not need to tell us if he is hungry does not feel abashed at asking the Samaritan woman for some water to drink.  He was indeed thirsty, but when he said, ‘Give me a drink,’ he who was the Creator was asking for love from his creature (see Jn. 4:4-30)” (quoted in Courageous Love).

          When I first bought The Hidden Power of Kindness, I wondered how someone could fill 246 pages telling people to be nice.  Between its covers I discovered many nuggets of wisdom, all of which are part of the puzzle of how to live charitably.  There are such topics as “control inordinate anger, ” “be charitable in your speech,” “seek the blessings of kind words,” and “cultivate a love that overflows in kind deeds.”  At once, I recognized how far I have to go and how practical Fr. Lovasik’s advice is.

          The book is organized and written simply.  There are small segments explained in plain language, making it perfect to read aloud to the whole family.  An entire family who embraced the idea of living charitably would certainly live in a peaceful house.

          Does this mean that the schedule is not necessary and the kindness book is all we need for a peaceful, productive summer?  I don’t think so.  I think the schedule is a good thing.  It is a written reminder of the planned actions I want to give to God—the roses.  The real key, however, is what we do with the interruptions—the thorns.  My prayer is that the large and sharper they are, the sweeter my song, and my smile, will be.  That is how, in our humble homes, in our little way, we can love Him well.

The Hidden Power of Kindness is available from Catholic Foundations.