Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. At this time of year, most religions are focused on the “reason for the season”. In other words, Christians are focused on Christmas, Jews are focused on Chanukah, Muslims are celebrating Arba’een, and other religions are celebrating the winter solstice in some form or the other. Most religions preach a message of love and cooperation, and yet we are faced this year with terrorism, fear and violence.
We have all read about the mass murders, terrorist attacks and other acts of violence that evoke emotions in most people. Resentment, anger, revenge, anger and fear are at higher levels than usual this year due to these unfortunate events. In a world where so many people give lip service to the higher vibrations of love and unity, it seems that our behavior is getting worse and worse.
Before we dismiss these issues as acts of others and not our responsibility, I am seeing more and more acts of violence in everyday life in people around me. I was just in an airport, and a gate agent asked a passenger to check her carry on back because the flight was full and it was unlikely that there would be room for her bag. The passenger became irate, and refused to check her bag. The gate agent politely asked the passenger to put her bag in the sizing bin. The passenger did so, more to prove the agent wrong than to see if her bag complied with the sizing regulations. After she literally sat on the bag to get it in the sizing bin, the gate agent relented and allowed her to take the bag on the plane.
The attitude of the passenger was remarkably hostile. The gate agent was only doing her job, but the passenger proceeded to loudly lecture her that the passenger was a frequent passenger on the airline and was offended by the agent. The passenger made sure everyone at the gate knew she was a frequent flier and how unreasonable the agent was to ask her to check her bag.
The first thing to cross my mind was if the woman was, in fact, a frequent flier she should have known that these things occasionally happen and there was no reason to lose her temper. It certainly didn’t help the mood at the gate as most of the other passengers were sympathetic to the gate agent and was surprised at the attitude of the passenger. To further underscore her attitude, the passenger sarcastically yelled “Merry Christmas” to the airline staff. It was obvious from her tone and body language indicated that she was not being sincere. It was also obvious she was a US citizen. Sigh.
I am also seeing more and more cases of road rage, and I notice that I have to be extra vigilant while driving these days. Drivers are becoming more and more aggressive. I suppose that the fear and anger raised by the violent events of late must be more and more evident.
This is where a message of kindness becomes more and more important. I believe that kindness is the ultimate power on earth. Kindness is love manifested, especially to strangers and those we don’t particularly like. People are always asking me how to love, and the starting point is to be kind. When we are kind, we smile more, we are more generous with our time and attention, and we relax. When we are kind to others, and ourselves stress greatly diminishes and life becomes easier. If anyone is uncertain about how to be kind, simply make a list of the ways you want to be treated and then apply that list to your everyday life.
Life has certainly been challenging for me over the last few years, but I never forgot the necessity to be as kind as possible. Yes, we all have to set boundaries and enforce them, but we do not have to go out of our way to injure others. When we harbor thoughts of anger, fear and revenge, we are inflicting those injuries upon us. When we hate others, we hate us. When we injure others, we hurt us. When we get angry at others, we are getting angry at us. We can apply these principles to any emotion or action.
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. There are many interpretations of that parable but the one most commonly understood is that we should respond to violence with kindness. If we strike back, we are only lowering ourselves to the level of our attacker. The gate agent who was dealing with the upset passenger applied this principle; she was polite and understanding with the passenger. She apologized to the passenger even though she was simply doing her job. When people cut us off in traffic, how do we respond? Do we run the offending driver off the road or do we slow down and let the other driver room to enter our lane? If we see someone cut in line, do we get upset or do we allow him or her to come into line ahead of us?
This year I challenge everyone to give the gift of kindness to everyone they interact with. Don’t buy gifts, the gift of kindness is much more appreciated and it is free. If we treat our brothers and sisters with kindness, we will bring peace on earth. Happy Holidays!