Friday was “random acts of kindness” day. It was a day when those participating went out of their way to do something kind for someone else. Can you imagine sitting at the drive-thru at Tim Horton’s and the stranger in front of you pays for your coffee? I have heard that it has happened, although not to me, but I believe it. People are that nice, and they really do want to be that nice.
This day tracks back to the early eighties. It’s a concept that’s been described in a book and movie called Pay it Forward, where the concept is that when someone does something nice to you, you do something nice for someone else and the world becomes a whole lot nicer place.
Seems benevolent enough, doesn’t it? It’s a movement that has grown across society, and it’s taking hold in our schools, and when I say “our” schools I mean even in our Catholic schools, and people do nice things just because they feel like it, or someone did for them, but there’s no mention of God. God is not the motivation behind it.
We probably all have friends or family or coworkers and neighbours who wonder why we go to Church every week. They might even say things to us like “I’m not a practicing Catholic, I don’t go to Church, I don’t need to go to Church to pray! I’m a nice person, I do good, isn’t that what God wants?”
Well yes, I think God does want us to be nice to each other, and with random acts of kindness we can seem to be headed in the right direction – but hang on, are we really?
Jesus us teaches us to be kind, in his name. “Whatever you do to others, you do unto me.” Jesus teaches us to love one another always.
That’s where the fully engaged Catholic should be cautious about the concept of Random Acts of Kindness. For one thing, it’s random. Another word for random might be sporadic, or occasional, or unpredictable, or rare, unexpected. Secondly, the kindness comes entirely from within.
Catholics, and all followers of Christ are actually about planned and deliberate acts of everyday kindness. We’re about universal caring, and kindness. We’re not supposed to be occasional, or unpredictable. Jesus taught us to live a life of anticipated caring, reliable love for each other, humble service others can count on, and a noticeably different way of living the Gospel with every word we speak, kindness we share, job we do and every stand in defense of the defenseless.There isn’t anything random about it, if you think about it. If it happens spontaneously it’s because we’ve been living it every day, every hour, with the Holy Spirit as our guide. We can’t help ourselves.
With a random act of kindness on a given day, we choose who we’re going to be nice to. The opposite must also then be true. We can choose not to be nice. We can look at other people and decide we don’t like them for whatever reason – their youth, their attitude, their ethnicity, their faith practice.
But that’s not what Christ taught us. Christ tells us to equally love every one. We don’t get to choose who to love, Christ commands us to love God, and to love our neighbour. Christ taught us, through his very example, to put others first, all other first, always.
When we forget that and embrace the false gods of secular pseudo-Christianity – to be Christ-like on our terms and when it suits us, in fact we have failed to heed his warning in the Gospel. “Beware that you are not led astray!” We must be cautious not to trade in our faith for something that sounds like what Christ said, but doesn’t attribute the source.
By constantly renewing our faith, together, as a community we are able to more clearly recognize those activities which are in keeping with the Catholic belief, those which are contrary, and those that chip away at our faith by sounding a lot like what Christ taught us to do, but as I said, without attributing the source.
It’s not that we shouldn’t practice random acts of kindness, we can and do, and we celebrate when a whole community does, too. It’s that the fully engaged Catholic does not ONLY practice kindness on specific days, and in circumstances only of our choosing.