Saturday, February 11, 2017

Week Five: "The Hidden Power of KIndness" - Ch. 3

This chapter really hit home with me. For much of my young adult life, I was under the spell of the material world - and greed, envy and jealousy were my daily currency. Here is an experience that I had at that time that really changed my heart.

In the pecking order of office politics, Sandra (not her real name) was that person - my nemesis.  You may have had one of them in your life too.  For me, Sandra was the person who stood in the way of my next promotion; the one whose every decision I disagreed with; the person whose job I was certain that I could do better than she.  In my all-encompassing world of corporate career growth, Sandra was enemy and I disliked her immensely. My behavior towards Sandra was, to put it mildly, not very nice. I am not exactly how she felt about me at the time. I would have to guess, based on the way I treated her, that she would never have nominated me for the team player of the year.

This was a nearly two decades ago. I was immersed in my career in corporate America. I had no time for the Lord or the things of God. And, frankly, I thought I had no need of them. My own selfish ambitions and a desire for all the material world had to offer me ranked as my number one priority and I viewed other people as friend or foe inasmuch as they advanced my goals or stood in their way.

Sandra stood in my way. 

It was at this place in my life that I was confronted with a reality that I had honestly never given much consideration to - the reality of the power of a single act of kindness. This confrontation shook me to my core and set in motion the slow turning of my heart back towards the Lord.

My encounter with kindness took place on a hot, sticky, humid Sunday afternoon in the city I grew up in. I was attending my grandmother's wake and I was miserable; terribly sad over my grandmother's passing and lonely, knowing that my friends who lived over an hour's drive away were not likely to make the trip to the wake. As I stood in the funeral home making small talk with my family, I looked up and to my utter shock and surprise, there was Sandra. She approached me and after giving her condolences over my Grandmother's passing, she explained how she had ridden her bicycle two miles to attend the wake. I was, quite literally, speechless. Her kindness shocked me. The amount of effort she made to be there for me was overwhelming.  The fact that she had come at all was something I had difficulty getting my mind around.

Sandra's kindness that day changed me. For starters, it totally changed my relationship to her. I never viewed her again as my enemy - instead I saw her as she was - a person, not an obstacle to be overcome. Secondly, the power of her act of kindness shifted my thinking about life. It was not a major shift at the time, but it did get me thinking that life was about more than corporate and material success. Finally, that one, small act of kindness mysteriously set my heart on a course back to the Lord. Sandra's act of kindness to me that day was like a gentle chisel that chipped away a small opening in my stony heart. Through that opening, God's love, shown through the kindness of another, began to soften my heart.

I have never forgotten what Sandra did for me that day. I think of her often  in the trenches of everyday life, when I find myself too tired, busy or preoccupied  to reach out in kindness to others. I remember the power of her one single act of kindness and pray for the grace to do the same..

My favorite quote:


All my years of corporate success left me unsettled and unsatisfied.  It was only after I experienced a major conversion, gave my life to Christ, and traded my six-figure salary corporate job for the life of a stay at home Mom that I realized the truth of these words.  The Lord has blessed me with peace and contentment that no material success could every come close to touching. 

Questions for Reflection:
  1. In this chapter, Fr. Lovasik clearly defined some of the major areas of weakness which tempt many of us, and lead us away from love and kindness. Review the definitions of greed (p59), envy (p60), jealousy (p63) and vainglory (p65) and humbly ask the Lord to reveal your own personal areas of weakness, always remembering God's unconditional love for each of us, in spite of our weakness.  Ask the Lord for the grace to overcome any of these temptations. 
  2. Read St. Paul's words in 1 Cor 13: Love is patient, Love is kind.  Substitute your own name for the word "love" and meditate on how that passage sounds with your own name. 
Personal Resolutions: 

Fr. Lovasik points out the need for immense gratitude for all God's blessings saying: "You have received great favors and unmerited blessings from God. Of yourself, you are and have nothing, except sin. Left to yourself, you would be a slave to passion. Whatever is good in you is really due to the working of grace in your soul. Therefore, humility and gratitude should be natural to you." (p66)

This week, my resolution is to bring to mind the reality that all I have and all I am are undeserved gifts from God.  Each time I think of all the blessings I received I will echo the words of the psalmist and say "Not to us Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory." (Psalm 115:1)

This week's readings:  This week we'll complete Chapter 4

Please share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Click here to view all of "The Hidden Power of Kindness" Book Club posts.

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