ARAKs: Advent Random Acts of Kindness

I already shared this challenge on Facebook, but because there are many readers of this blog who are not on Facebook, or who otherwise might not have seen that post, I’m sharing it here as well. I received it from my friend Lori, who may or may not have been the originator of it:

With all the suffering that is happening in the world today, I would like to challenge everyone on Facebook to do a random act of kindness from now until Christmas. You could shovel a neighbors driveway, pay it forward at your local coffee shop, watch a neighbors children so they can have a night/day out, send a thank you or Christmas card to a service member, purchase a toy for Toys for Tots….be creative! Just think about it, if everyone on Facebook [read: and everyone who reads this blog] did a random act of kindness for 24 days what an amazing Christmas it will be! So consider yourself challenged! Pass it on to all your friends and family! Let the kindness begin!

Let’s make this a challenge for all of us, not only those on Facebook. What do you say?

You might consider writing your acts on little pieces of paper. Then on Christmas morning you can lay a bowl with your collected acts before the creche as your gift to the Christ child. Beats golds, frankincense and myrrh by a mile.

I’m not suggesting this is not in the place of any Advent prayer you may be doing, which I strongly encourage. (And I’ll be posting my Advent retreat/reflection material here and hope you will make use of it.) But it is an invitation to put our prayer into action.

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Humility, Gratitude, Kindness

For the plane ride to and from Washington this weekend, I brought along a book I picked up at the Christian Legal Society annual meeting this past October, a book that was being distributed for free by the Center for Public Justice. The book is titled A Covenant to Keep: Meditations on the Biblical Theme of Justice. The book consists of five essays about different aspect of justice as taught in Scripture, the themes of which are further developed in a set of meditations.

One of the chapters addresses three Proverbs. It opens with “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth,” a proverb that, standing alone, can be easily misunderstood. It tempts one to assume those who lack are lazy and if they just worked harder all their problems would go away.

The author suggests it is dangerous to think a single proverb reveals God’s message in full and reminds us of two other proverbs as a way of gaining a fuller understanding God’s message. They are: “A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away,” and “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”

Reflecting on these proverbs, the author writes

If we put these three proverbs together, we come up with a remarkable storehouse of wisdom. That wisdom begins with honoring God in true humility; those who live with abundant wealth should not revel in their own achievements. They should give and receive with hearts of thankfulness. That, in turn, will lead them to see others, including the poor, in the same light – as people called to be thankful stewards of God, their maker. Proper acts of kindness will then follow.

A simple, yet profound wisdom. Humility. Gratitude. Kindness. If we can remember our dependence on God, remembering that all we have is gift, we will have hearts filled with gratitude. And gratitude leads us naturally to sharing the gifts we have received with others.

Pay it Forward

Do you remember the 2000 movie, Pay it Forward? A young schoolboy comes up with an ingenious idea to change the world for the better. His idea is to help three people do something they can’t do for themselves, and to ask them, instead of paying him back, to thank him by giving help to three other people, who in turn will give thanks by doing something for three other people, and so on. The movie had its limitations, but the idea has power.

What if large numbers of people really started to “pay it forward”? A facebook group called The Official “Pay it Forward” Experiment has more than 15,000 members. The administrator of the group acknowledges that “[p]erhaps we can’t change the world with this project, but if we can share our kindness and generosity with three other people, maybe we can change ‘their’ world.” If even a fraction of the 15,000 members of this group help three people and ask them to pay it forward…and even a fraction of those helped go out and help three more people, who then go out and help three more and so on….well, that’s an awful lot of goodness being spread throughout the world.

So what will you do to “pay it forward”? It doesn’t have to be giving away a Jaguar (as someone did in the movie). Often what seem like small actions on our part have big consequences to those we help. One contributor to the facebook group suggested that if you’re not sure what to do to pay it forward, to ask yourself what it is you are passionate about, what tugs at your heart strings; that will help you come up with some ideas. The point is that every act, every step, however small, is one step closer to transforming the world, to promoting God’s kingdom here on earth.