Bishop Reflection: Embracing the Spirit of Kindness
by the Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson,
Bishop of The Diocese of Missouri
Nov. 1, 2023
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
There is a lot wrong with the world. There are wars, mass shootings, climate change, racism, violence, political division, and so much more. We live at a time where everything seems precariously on the brink of collapse. We have been witnesses to gridlock in our politics, distrust in the religious spheres, and systemic decline in attendance at worship. It feels in many ways that the fabric of our common life, the institutions that serve as guardrails, has frayed almost to the point of fracture. There is a lot wrong with the world.
There is, at the same time, so much goodness in the world that often goes unnoticed.
On a recent early morning walk I came across a lonely act of kindness. There was nothing special or even sophisticated about the offering. It was beautiful in its simplicity and loving in its giving. A neighbor prepared a simple stainless steel bowl of water and placed it close to the sidewalk for passing dogs. Almost every morning as I go by, the bowl is full, clean, and ready for the day. The irony is that my neighbor doesn’t have a dog. The care and compassion that was evident in this random act of kindness was palpable. The ritual of each day refreshing the bowl, ensuring that it was clean and safe was such a simple yet power act.
As one of the receivers of this unasked gift I often wonder how many pets, and pet owners, rely on this act of kindness. I wonder how many times someone has stopped by the house, rang the doorbell, and offered a word of thanks. I wonder what made them decide that this would be their gift to the neighborhood pets and the world.
On most days I imagine that my neighbor simply noticed the number of dogs walking by and decided that this random act might be something small they could offer to the community. Perhaps this is a way of caring for pets when they themselves are not able to have companion animals. Perhaps this is a way of atoning for something done in the past. Whatever the reason, this has become a part of the rule of life for my neighbor and it is a good reminder that the act of kindness begins with taking notice.
Jesus, in his ministry, often centered on those whom others could not or chose not to see. Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus often offered random acts of kindness by simply observing the people around him and doing something about their situation. At our best we as the Church are called to do the same. How often do we emulate Jesus in the observation of who is around in need and then modeling our ministries to fulfill those needs? How often do we love our neighbors by offering them the gift of kindness?
Random acts of kindness are powerful gestures that have the ability to brighten someone’s day, restore faith in the goodness of humanity, and encourage others to do the same. These acts draw upon our better selves in times of distress and despair. At a time where negativity sometimes overshadows the positive, random acts of kindness serve as beacons of hope and signposts of love, reminding us that even the smallest gesture can make a huge difference.
There is a lot wrong with the world, maybe we are called to make it a habit to observe and then embrace the spirit of kindness, seeking to make our neighborhoods, communities, and ultimately our world a warmer, more compassionate place for everyone. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
 Matthew 25:40