It showed up unexpectedly in a package I ordered from Suzanne Stovall-Vinson. A sticker with beautiful artwork that said “be brave and be kind”. I had ordered some temporary tattoos, some “kindness changes everything” stickers and some coloring sheets that I am carefully considering before I start filling them in with color and shapes. Suzanne included a promo pack for her artwork, and this sticker was part of it.
I met Suzanne at the 2011 Young Clergy Women Project conference. A friend of mine encouraged me to join and come, and so I did. It was the best conference I have attended in a long time – this ecumenical group of women who do what I do, and understand what it is like to be young, female, and a pastor, and all that stuff that goes with it. I still have the artwork we made on my bulletin board, right above the sticker that says “because you’re not the only one.” These are visual reminders of the women I am getting to know, and the friendships that I cherish.
That “be brave and be kind” sticker sits on my phone on my desk. Several weeks ago, a dear friend called me about hard a conversation she was going to have to initiate with members of her congregation, and she was anxious about it. It is her story, and not mine, but pastors can relate to the difficult phone call or visit that needs to be made when individuals or families are not happy with the church. As we were talking, I said that I did not have any more advice beyond the words that were staring at me – be brave and be kind. Suzanne’s art spoke through me to the one who needed to hear the words (Or, God was at work, is probably more like it). I wonder if that is what Paul meant when he told us to speak the truth in love? Be brave and be kind.
One Sunday, I had a hectic morning before I even left the house. I was dog-sitting at one house, and getting ready to go to church at my house. Somewhere in there, I switched purses and left my wallet behind. I was late, tired, and out of sorts. I reached Starbucks for my Sunday morning coffee, and pulled up the app on my phone to pay. My total was something like $2.87. I had $1.13 left on my card. And that’s when I discovered I did not have my wallet. My emergency $20 that I keep in the glove box was not there (and I silently cursed using it for a non-emergency and not replacing it). The young woman at the window could tell I was distraught – I did not have time to go back home before church, and offered to come back later to pay, or to just not take the coffee. Instead she handed me my cup and told me to have a good day. She was kind, and made the day better just like that. Her small act of kindness changed everything in my morning.
Until about 2 hours ago, I was in possession of 10 stickers that say “kindness changes everything.” Today, our staff divided into teams of 3 or 4 and were given a mission – for each team member (and sticker) we are to show kindness to a stranger, — to show kindness in the world in an anonymous way, and make a small part of the world better for someone. The rules are as follows: Each mission must be planned and completed as a team, one of the missions must not cost anyone out of pocket (but supplies from home and church are OK), the sticker must be attached, pictures must be taken, and we are to show kindness to strangers – not individuals we know personally. The kindness that came to me in a promo pack has been paid forward to a friend in the sharing of the words. Kindness is not about glory or gratification. Kindness is about making the world better; it is about showing the love of God. Our staff was buzzing about their plans as we parted ways this afternoon, and I’ll keep you posted as to what happens next.