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What Good Shall I Do This Day?

Call to action: Do something about Failures of Kindness

What Good Shall I Do This Day? thanks to Dan MacAulay

'Love your neighbor as yourself' - Mark 12:31

In 2018 the writer George Saunders gave a Convocation Speech on the subject of kindness to the graduates of Syracuse University. In the speech, he recalls some of the bigger mistakes and mishaps of his life, and notes that despite their negative consequences, he regrets none of them. Instead, it is a small moment from his youth, a foible of omission rather than commission, that still niggles at him:

"In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be 'Ellen.' Ellen was small, shy. She wore these blue cat's-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased ("Your hair taste good?" - that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she'd look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After awhile she'd drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: "How was your day, sweetie?" and she'd say, "Oh, fine." And her mother would say, "Making any friends?" and she'd go, "Sure, lots."

Sometimes I'd see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then - they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing. One day she was there, next day she wasn't. End of story.

Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still. It bothers me. So here's something I know to be true, although it's a little corny, and I don't quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded... Sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly."
 
When I ask myself, 'What good shall I do this day?' this story will never be far from my mind. I found myself looking back over some of the times of my life when I saw hurting or rejected people and I recognized the response of George Saunders as also my response: sensible, reserved, mild.

Make a sincere decision with your life so that you will not miss the opportunities to love your neighbor as yourself, and not allow failures of kindness to be a part of you. This is one of the key ways you can honor God with all of your life.

QuotaBills
Love in its essence is spiritual fire. - Emanuel Swedenborg

Speech is the vestibule to the palace of love. - Jami of Persia

Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat. - John Leman

I can't win. Love is Russian Roulette for me. - Freddie Mercury

The art of love is largely the art of persistence. - Albert Ellis

How far would you go to keep the hope of love alive? - Nicholas Sparks

To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance. - Oscar Wilde

Love is a fair garden, and marriage a field of nettles. - Finnish Proverb

Recognize, appreciate and repay your parents' love. - Cheng Yen

I love being famous - it's almost like being white. - Chris Rock

Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit. - Khalil Gibran

Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law. - Boethius

Who marries for love without money has merry nights and sorry days. - Scottish Proverb

Love isn't something you find. Love is something that finds you. - Loretta Young

Like the measles, love is most dangerous when it comes late in life. - Lord Byron

We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. - B.F. Skinner

Be kind to your mother-in-law but pay for her board at some good hotel. - Josh Billings

One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry. - Oscar Wilde

Love wouldn't be blind if the braille weren't so damned much fun. - Armistead Maupin

We have to make our inspiration first before our inspiration can build us. - Sanjive K Sharma

From every Englishman emanates a kind of gas, the deadly choke-lamp of boredom. - Heinrich Heine

Some of the greatest love affairs I've known involved one actor, unassisted. - Wilson Mizner

What can we make of the inexpressible joy of children? It is a kind of gratitude. - Annie Dillard

Would that thy love, beloved, had less trust in me, that it might be more anxious! - Héloïse d'Argenteuil

I love contemporary art, although I wouldn't want a pickled shark in my house. - Bruno Tonioli

A two-year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it. - Jerry Seinfeld

Love endures only when the lovers love many things together and not merely each other. - Walter Lippmann

Your inner understanding of love can be extended beyond all you have ever known, before. - Eleesha

From success you get a lot of things, but not that great inside thing that love brings you. - Samuel Goldwyn

Instead of letting your hardships and failures discourage or exhaust you, let them inspire you. - Michelle Obama

It's better to fall from a tree and break your back than to fall in love and break your heart. - African Proverb

Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position. - Brian Tracy

Love is the answer, but while you're waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions. - Woody Allen

I love being married. I was single for a long time, and I just got so sick of finishing my own sentences. - Brian Kiley

Love is as much a question of the will as it is of the emotion. And if you will to love somebody, you can. - Ramesh Zacharias

No woman is worth more than a fiver unless you're in love with her. Then she is worth all she costs you. - W Somerset Maugham

Relationships are about give and take; not tit-for-tat. If you're keeping score, you'll lose at your own game. - Faydra D. Fields

This is one of the miracles of love: it gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted. - C S Lewis

William Hurt has a painful last name. Kevin Love has a name perfect for February 14th. But what about Johnny Longdong? Where does he fit? - Jarod Kintz

Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments. - Isaac Asimov


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