Clergy Reflection – January 12, 2018

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.   – Letter to the Colossians 3:12

I stopped by a local neighborhood store the other day to pick up a bottle of wine.

Being a small neighborhood store, it sells both alcohol and basic staple foods and snacks.  Two children were at the register when I entered the store, apparently a brother and his younger sister.  They had a small amount of money between them to buy after school snacks.  The car right outside the door likely housed the Mom who had let them go in to the store on their own for a little adventure in shopping.

Big brother’s selections were added up first, and then it was little sister’s turn.  She had a drink (some sort of blue colored concoction) and a bag of chips on the counter, and two crumpled one-dollar bills (perhaps drawn out of allowance set aside in a piggy bank).  The young adult clerk’s face became pained as he had to inform the little sister that her total was $3.44.  With understandable reluctance, little sister began to take the bag of chips off the counter and return it to the appropriate shelf.

Ahead of me was a local fellow I’ve seen around over the years with a 24 pack of beer in hand.  His garb suggests hands-on manual labor –  perhaps helping on a lobster boat in summer, maybe working with a plumber or electrician as a helper in winter.  Without a moment’s thought, he had pulled a dollar bill from his pocket and put it on the counter.  That left 44 cents, and it was my turn to pull out another dollar bill to get little sister over the top.

The clerk collected the four dollars (greatly relieved!), and as he considered what to do with the change, my co-conspirator and I said in unison, “give her the change!”

A simple, instinctive act of kindness which I think says something about a small neighborhood being capable of responding sensitively to one another and knowing that such simple kindnesses will be passed on in the natural course of life.  It was a no-brainer.

It seems to me we are living at a time when our public discourse is too often poisonous and governed by an “us” and “them” mentality, and this relentlessly dysfunctional  public behavior can easily overwhelm us and drain away our ability to reveal a spirit of community and mutual sensitivity to one another in our daily lives.

Simple acts of kindness at one little neighborhood store won’t change the world, of course.  Nevertheless, the Bible calls upon us to clothe ourselves with compassion and kindness.  Whenever any of us choose to act out of simple compassion and kindness, it is as if we are casting a little stone into a pond.  We know not where the “ripples” may go, but at least we can create a little ripple of caring.  It beats just cursing the darkness.

–Stephen