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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 is the only gold. - Alfred Tennyson

Kind words cost nothing. - Unknown

If you have love, it's easier. - Joe Segal

Love is a better teacher than duty. - Albert Einstein

We accept the love we think we deserve. - Stephen Chbosky

I love life because what more is there. - Anthony Hopkins

The love of evil is the root of all money. - American Proverb

If you can't be kind, at least be vague. - Judith Martin

You is kind. You is smart. You is important. - The Help

Most men admire virtue, who follow not her love. - John Milton

There is not love of life without despair about life. - Albert Camus

Enthusiasm is a kind of faith that has been set afire. - George Matthew Adams

There is no physician who can cure the disease of love. - African Proverb

Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves. - Unknown

If love is the answer, could you please rephrase the question? - Lily Tomlin

Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love. - David McCullough

How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time. - Morgan Freeman

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

Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness. - Confucius

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. - Mother Teresa

Love unlocks doors and opens windows that weren't even there before. - Mignon McLaughlin

The human heart is a strange vessel. Love and hatred can exist side by side. - Scott Westerfeld

When you're in love, it's the most glorious two-and-a-half days of your life. - Richard Lewis

Love is not the dying moan of a distant violin - it's the triumphant twang of a bedspring. - S.J. Perelman

You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging. - Brene Brown

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. - Bible

Love, like a chicken salad or restaurant hash, must be taken with blind faith or it loses its flavor. - Helen Rowland

Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall. A mother's secret hope outlives them all. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

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

Kindness and a generous spirit go a long way. And a sense of humor. It's like medicine - very healing. - Max Irons

All happiness or unhappiness solely depends upon the quality of the object to which we are attached by love. - Baruch Spinoza

We are each given a limitless capacity to love and attain wisdom. The extent we use these gifts is our choice. - Anthony Douglas

There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at, and who steals what is most precious to men: time. - Napoleon Bonaparte

The happiness of life is made up of the little charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment. - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Never part without loving words to think of during your absence. It may be that you will not meet again in this life. - Jean Paul Richter

I'm not sure which is harder on a relationship: sharing a dresser for three years, or sharing an iPhone charger for one day. - Unknown

The birch-bark canoe of the savage seems to me one of the most beautiful and perfect things of the kind constructed by human art. - William C. Bryant

Determine what motivates you and you can find your path to love, happiness and influence and that which you seek to make your life complete. - Louis Howard

I used to live an isolated existence, even in relationships, but now my family knows me for who I really am. Mostly, that's a good thing. - Tim Allen

If you never want to see a man again, just tell him, "I love you. I want to marry you. I want to have children." They leave skid marks. - Rita Rudner


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