I’ve been on a steep learning curve with the recent earth-shaking events in my life. One of the benefits of crisis is that it neatly stacks your priorities for you, with no doubt on what is on top and most important! Another bonus is that the qualities of “being good” are vividly clear. I spend a lot of effort in my life in trying to “be good” and it is vitally important to know what that means.
How do you tell if someone is a good person? How can we know? It is not the clothes they wear. It isn’t if one has a tatoo or not. Nor how many children they have. Nor their last name or family heritage. Nor the church they belong to. Nor the meetings they attend. Nor how much work they do in the church. Or how busy they are. In fact, doing “holy hurdles” doesn’t make up for the lack of this important qualifier and only makes its absence sorer. It definitely isn’t how much they profess to be good. It is so simple, really.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
People will know those who follow Jesus because they are so loving. So kind. So caring and concerned. I saw “the sign” often as we interacted with the hospital staff and other people we encountered in both Chile and in the USA. Such a simple identifier. Loving kindness is the clear give-away. And I finally understand how “charity covereth a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Loving kindness supersedes every other virtue.
Loving kindness . . . that nourishing, tender, warm and delicious balm that we can choose to administer to each other . . . this is what matters! This is what decides if you are a “good person”. It sometimes doesn’t take much at all, really. You don’t have to bring soup, though soup can help. But the soup without the loving kindness is not very nourishing. “For the gift without the giver is bare…” (James Russell Lowell).
To be kind, you only have to pause and notice, be there, be patient, listen, talk, smile, be loving, not judge, be accepting, be tender. It is amazing what nourishment it gives to the one in need!
There were many people who had “the sign” of loving kindness, by which all men can know who they follow. I am thinking about a humble cleaning lady in the hospital. She had immigrated from Bhutan and was working to pay off her immigration debt. She tried to speak English, very apologetically, worried that she wasn’t doing it right. She opened the hospital room door timidly and smiled a very big, genuine smile when she came in the room. She chatted with us a little, expressing concern for our son. Next morning, there she was again, with that wide, bright smile. The love poured out of her.
A doctor comes to mind, who took the time in the evening, at the end of his busy day, to explain things, answer questions and explore options with us in a most friendly, respectful, warm manner for over an hour. He actually sat on a footstool, making himself lower than the rest of us, and acted as if he were our fun-loving brother, instead of the important, amazing heart specialist who worked at the Mayo Clinic for a decade. He listened to my wonderings, and told me to keep researching on the internet, and let him know what I found (as if I could teach him something!) His friendliness and humility spoke loving kindness so loud and clear that I was willing to follow his suggestions promptly.
And Renee, a new friend I met in Chile, was always thinking of us and always had something to give us when we returned from the hospital each night at 10:30 PM—be it water, something to eat she had made for us, or a sincere, warm hug. I know she got up early to do her work, and I wonder how she could stay up and administer her loving care to us when we dragged in at the end of the day. Never judging, always supportive, never getting tired of how long we needed help, which turned out to be over a month. Renee was a most amazing example to me of loving kindness!
And now abideth faith, hope, charity: these three, but the greatest of these is charity.
–1 Corinthians 13: 13
P.S. Ammon is home, recovering day-by-day, and being nourished with a steady supply of loving kindness from family and friends. We’re so blessed!