Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pitching Kindness

“Kindness is love in action.”

  Recently, Hailey Dawson, an 8-year-old from Henderson, Nevada who was born without three fingers on her throwing hand, threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Colorado Rockies’ series finale against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. It was the 9th major-league ballpark in which Hailey, whose missing fingers and underdeveloped thumb and pinky finger are from a condition called Poland syndrome, threw out the first pitch. She did so with the help of a custom designed prosthetic hand. “I don’t get nervous,” she said pregame in the dugout, dabbing occasionally on her purple prosthetic. “I just focus on the catcher.” Hailey began her pregame journey at a Baltimore game on Aug. 17, 2015, throwing out the first pitch to her favorite player, Manny Machado. Her ultimate goal is to toss out the first pitch at all 30 major-league ballparks. Team after team has invited her to do that, including my three favorites: the Atlanta Braves, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Detroit Tigers.
  Okay, I’m a softie! I absolutely love stories like this! Are you like me? I grow very weary of negative, mean, critical or sad news. No, I’m not a Pollyanna. I just don’t want to fill my mind and continually think about the negative junk of this world. Personally, I think it’s a violation of Philippians 4:8. If a believer is to have a different worldview doesn’t that first begin in my inner world, what I think about it and fill my mind with?
  What though stories like this do for me – is that they encourage me to seek to be more kind. Too often I find that selfishness, harshness…even meanness come too easy. I have to work at kindness. In fact, I know that I am only kind because of God’s grace. Praise the Lord! He’s been working on me for nearly five decades!
  Yet, when you think about it, kindness is so easy and requires so little effort. Almost 55 years later, I remember a man from my neighborhood, Mr. Clonts – he was the oldest guy in our neighborhood. His children were all grown and I’m sure that he had grandchildren. He lived three houses down from mine but we’d ride our bikes to his house and he’d grease the chain and tighten up the seat and handlebars. Why? Kindness!
  It takes so little effort to be unkind or kind. Another word for it might be thoughtfulness. As I read the Gospels, I think Jesus was the model of kindness and thoughtfulness. You find that He often was the one who gave time to those others ignored and even avoided, like the woman at the well (John 4), or Zaccheaus (Luke 19), or even little children (Matthew 19).
  It’s little things as seemingly insignificant as greeting your spouse and your children in the morning. It’s smiling instead of frowning. It’s letting someone turn in front of you. It’s greeting the cashier at the gas station, noticing their name and asking how their day is going. It’s saying please and thank you. It’s calling up someone you know that tends to be lonely, like an elderly person or a widow or widower, even a recent divorcee. It’s holding a door open for someone. It’s really listening to your spouse and children. It’s raising your voice only when it is absolutely necessary. It’s ignoring most little mistakes and inconveniences. (In those situations when my order is wrong or delayed, I’ll often say – “If that’s the worst thing that happens to me today, then I’ve had a good day!” And I have!)
  Because I know that my heart can easily go to the dark side of selfishness, negativity, criticism and pettiness – I seek to surround myself with kind and gracious friends. I want to be a godly positive influence on them and I want them to be a godly positive one on me. It really is true – birds of a feather flock together. If most of your friends tend to be neg-aholics, maybe you’re part of the problem.
  I’ve never regretted being too kind. Have you? The world doesn’t just need more random acts of kindness. It needs those who have been treated so kindly by a gracious God to determine to be kind to others as they have been shown kindness.
  Stored in a safe place at the Library of Congress is a small blue box. The label reads: “Contents of the President’s pockets on the night of April 14, 1865.” It’s from that terrible night when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The box contains five things: (1) A handkerchief embroidered “A. Lincoln”; (2) A country boy’s pen knife; (3) A spectacles case repaired with string; (4) A purse containing a $5 bill—in Confederate money! (5) Some old and worn newspaper clippings.
  The clippings mention the great deeds of Abraham Lincoln. One of them reports a speech by John Bright, a British statesman, saying that Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest men of all time. It’s not news for us who live over a century later. We all know that Lincoln was a great man, but in 1865, the jury was still out. The nation was divided and Lincoln had fierce critics on both sides as he made decisions that he hoped would restore the Union. Remember, Lincoln hadn’t read the history books on himself!
  There’s something poignantly pathetic about picturing this lonely figure in the Oval Office reaching into his pocket and spreading out these newspaper clippings as he read and re-read the encouraging words of a man who believed that Lincoln was a great man. It gave him the courage and strength to go on. Kindness of a writer across the ocean deeply touched his soul. It was an act of kindness that he took to his untimely grave.
  Kindness is a wonderful habit. Are you consistently kind? Who can you be kind to…today? Who can you be Jesus to? The more that we are kind, the more that we “hit it out of the ballpark!” 

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