The other day I read a story about a man who sat down next to an autistic child on an airplane. He could have chosen to ignore her. He could have chosen to be grumpy about it. Instead, he chose to answer the child's questions. He chose to entertain her for a bit. He chose not to be upset with the mom when the child's boredom and frustration turned to tears. And he may never know how much he touched that mom's heart.
You see, she went home and blogged about it. (You can read the full story here.) The story has been shared over and over again. This man's name is never mentioned, but his act of kindness has gone viral. Because that one act of kindness made that mom feel like she didn't have to apologize for her child. He made her child feel like she was someone special. He took the time to focus on the needs of someone else, and he made her day.
I imagine that what that guy did on that airplane is a lot like what Jesus would have done in the same situation. We're called to be a picture of God's love to others, and so much of that can simply be done by being kind.
Somewhere in the past six months, I've picked up the phrase, "Be kinder than you need to be." I don't remember where I first heard it or read it, but it stuck with me, and it's what I've been trying to teach my kids (with mixed results).
You see, our kids need to know that kindness matters. They need to know that God's admonition to be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32) isn't just a suggestion; it's a command. They need to know that simply being kind to another person can make or break that person's day.
Kindness often doesn't take much effort from us. It simply takes an awareness of the opportunities we are presented to be kind. When those opportunities arise, we need to point them out to our kids and encourage them to take advantage of them. We need to help them understand that going the extra mile and walking a few steps in another person's shoes can make a huge difference in this world.
Here are three practical ways you can help your kids learn to be "kinder than they need to be."
1. Be aware of the people around you. Notice when someone is sad or lonely. Then do something about it.
2. Go the extra mile. If someone asks you for help, go beyond what they ask for. Allow someone to go in front of you in line. Hold the door for a mom with a stroller and groceries. Ask how you can help a friend who is struggling.
3. Be creative. Do some random acts of kindness. Surprise the neighbors with cookies. Shovel the elderly neighbors' driveway when it snows. Buy the meal of the person behind you in the drive-thru line.
When we help our kids to understand the importance of kindness, we make the world just a little bit nicer place to be. We find ourselves looking for opportunities to practice kindness. And we quickly learn that if everyone in this world was just a little bit kinder than they needed to be, this world would look a whole lot more like God intended it to in the beginning.