By Barb Arland-Fye
A young man is going to prison because his reckless driving killed a construction worker last summer. My heart aches for the family of the man who died, but newscast images of the reckless driver and his mother, holding a toddler on her hip, filled me with sadness. I saw two broken people — a young man who thought he was invincible but didn’t intend to kill anyone, and a mother expressing hope that her son will be a better man at the end of his prison sentence.
Around the same time, just five days into 2017, media outlets reported that four young people had been charged with a hate crime in connection with the vicious assault of an 18-year-old man with a mental disability. The victim’s attackers posted the videotaped assault on Facebook and could be heard using profanity toward white people and President-elect Donald Trump.
These two examples of brokenness in a world desperately in need of kindness helped crystallize my resolutions for the new year with additional inspiration from Catholic Messenger reader Mary Rourke. A member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, Mary left a voice mail message for me proposing a story about how to make and keep New Year’s resolutions.
“Look at the things we can do for or with others,” she suggested. “Make it about time or about someone. Make resolutions in a new way. Pay attention to people. I heard a radio sermon after Christmas about how God’s gift to us is God’s presence and our gift to each other could be our presence to each other.”
Practicing her own advice, she called the pastor who gave that sermon and complimented him. She’ll do the same thing in a check-out line, complimenting a woman for what she is wearing. When Mary and a friend saw a frazzled young mother dealing with a crying toddler in the store, they walked over to the mom and offered reassurance. These are small, but intentional gestures that in my mind demonstrate how kindness can be a salve for our bitterly divided culture.
Mary, a 65-year-old retired letter carrier, is not a braggart. She feels blessed by God and wants to show how easy it is to share those blessings with others. When she’s shopping at the grocery store and sees canned goods on sale, she drops a couple extra cans into her cart and donates them to a homeless shelter. In warm weather months, she gardens with the Asbury United Methodist Garden Ministry, donating produce to local food pantries and shelters.
The cover of Parade magazine for Jan. 1, 2017, promoted a story about kindness. “It’s the little things we do that make all the difference ….” “Let’s make 2017 the Year of Being Kind,” reads the title of the story written by Paula Spencer Scott. Like Mary, the magazine advises: keep it simple. Carry out one kind act a day in 2017. Visit someone in the nursing home or call an old friend. Listen to someone you typically don’t make time to listen to.
Pope Francis believes that 2017 will be a good year if people choose goodness over hatred, he said during New Year’s Day remarks in St. Peter’s Square. It’s doable for each of us, if day by day we try to do a good deed, with the help of God. I’ll start by sending a note to the mother whose son is headed to prison to let her know I care.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)