Today is World Kindness Day, which is also known this year as “Cardigan Day” according to folks excited about the upcoming release of the new Mister Rogers movie. Along with many of you, I’ve been waiting in great anticipation for this upcoming film starring Tom Hanks, and I am excited to gather a group of youth to go see this movie celebrating our beloved Presbyterian hero, Rev. Fred “Mister” Rogers.
Fred Rogers is famous for saying, “There are three ways to ultimate success. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” We need more kindness in our world, and perhaps this is why there is a resurgence of Fred Rogers in recent years. His voice remains an important and relevant perspective in our world.
In the church, we remember kindness as one of the important characteristics of the fruit of the spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). As the fruit grows, kindness grows -- which means that kindness comes from the fruit’s connectedness to the vine. The vine, the Bible teaches, is Jesus Christ (see John 15.5-8, 16-17). This means that we grow in kindness insofar as we grow in our connectedness to Jesus. We don’t simply try hard at being kind, gritting our teeth the whole time, focusing on our work and all that we are doing as the source of it. Instead, we discover kindness flowing from us in a more natural and humble way -- as we put our trust in Jesus and abide in him.
I promise you that Fred Rogers understood this truth. Fred was known for waking early in the morning and spending important time connected to the vine, abiding in Jesus. Today, I hope you will take time to think about the genesis of kindness (and wear a red cardigan while you’re at it!). Get connected to the vine, abide in Jesus, and allow your kindness to flow from this and spill into your world. If it has been a while since you’ve felt connected, that is OK. Know that you are loved and valued for exactly who you are…and, at the same time, take a step toward the vine (I love the saying that “God is never farther than a prayer away”). Summon up some courage and bravery, and try reconnecting to God through prayer, reading the Bible, coming to worship, etc. I trust you’ll find that Jesus is waiting for you with a great big smile, a warm embrace, and a listening ear.
Kindness flows from the vine. Kindness flows out of something greater than we are, something that is entangled in the very fabric of our being. Kindness is a gateway for one person to share with another the good news about the kindest person who ever lived. With this in mind, sharing kindness with others becomes one of the greatest blessings of our joyful lives following Jesus Christ. As we grow in the vine, we begin to see with clearer eyes the abundant blessings and gifts we’ve been given in this life. “The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings,” said Fred Rogers, “Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away.”
Keep on keeping on,
Rev. Dr. Joshua Stewart
Associate Pastor for Youth