If we pay attention, we can sometimes find inspiration in the weirdest of places. It happened last week, when I was reminded that I should make more of an effort to be kind to others – not just in this season of good will, but all the time.
But first, let me share that as a child, I was taught that being kind is something we simply must do. My mother taught all her children a Bible verse, Ephesians 4:32: “Be ye kind, one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another …”
My mother was the epitome of kindness. The stereotypical church lady, she was always doing nice things for other people – taking meals to those who were ill, or out of work, or grieving; making baby blankets for every newborn in our church; calling folks who had missed Sunday school.
She once enlisted a couple of friends to make food for the wedding reception of a young couple who were getting married. They were college students who had little money and told her they would just have peanut butter sandwiches and lemonade for their small reception.
Mom and her friends showered them with ham biscuits, sausage balls, pimento cheese, crackers, cookies, and a cake – all the accoutrements of a 1960s-era down home Southern wedding.
Mom taught me how to be kind by taking me with her on some of her visits. I remember feeling sad for her cousin Fran at the State Hospital (she had mental health issues) and for Mr. Peel, the veteran at a nursing home who had no legs. Mom showed me that these folks, especially going through rough times, deserved human kindness.
The Christmas holidays were especially busy for my mother, because, in addition to tending to my brother and sister and me, she took time to bake cookies and pies for others. And everyone got a Christmas card in the mail!
She loved Christmas, mostly because we celebrated the birth of Baby Jesus, but also because it was a time when everyone – even the grumpy neighbor across the street – seemed to be a little nicer to one another.
Fast forward to last week, when my husband and I watched a Christmas movie after dinner. It was an old one, released in 1988, but neither of us had seen “Scrooged,” starring Bill Murray as a money-hungry, grouchy executive of a big TV production company.
Murray’s character, Frank Cross, was a curmudgeon focused only on the bottom line, making more profit with less effort, disregarding the ideas of his employees, and firing anyone who disagreed with him – even on Christmas Eve.
The story progresses along the lines of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” complete with ghosts showing Frank his sad past, his ugly present and his devastating future.
Thankfully, Frank realizes what he has become and has an amazing change of heart. He bursts into the live Christmas Eve show in progress at his TV studio and proclaims the most wonderful words of promise that reminded me of – you guessed it – my mom.
“It’s Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more,” Frank said. “For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people we always hoped we would be.”
Those words resonated with me. I do try to be nice most of the time. But when my snarky side sometimes shows through, I wonder if I’m the person my mom always hoped I would be.
Frank goes on to encourage viewers to open their hearts and feel the Christmas spirit: “Be the person you always wished you would be,” he said. “Christmas can happen every day.”
Put another way, “Be ye kind, one to another.”