February 1, 2012 Volume 26, Number 02
One kind word
By Warwick Cooper | ChristianWeek Columnist
I turned the corner in the grocery aisle the other day and saw an angry mother whack her preschool toddler across the face hard. Not once but three times. The kid was crying. Adults were staring or walking quickly away. No one intervened or offered to help. What would you do?
Most people have witnessed a parent and child struggling in a public place. Meltdowns happen all the time in public. I was surprised there are even a few organizations that have grown up to address the problem. One of the largest urges adults to intervene by offering "one kind word" to the adult involved. It's a way of coming alongside the parent who has obviously come to the end of their patience, and offer sympathy and assistance. You have to admit it is difficult for most of us at times like this. Who of us likes conflict, even if we are not personally involved? What do you say, anyway?
I am not talking here about situations that are open to interpretation. I am talking about situations when you know there is something going on that is just plain wrong, or hurtful or abusive. Does the Bible have something to say about this? Ephesians 4:15"Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ." The psychological term for this is "being assertive."
If we don't speak the truth in love we are cowardly. Wrong triumphs. There is always a price to pay. And we don't always feel we are ready to pay it. It calls us to get involved, to be the salt and light in our community. Secular organizations have pinned it down to "one kind word," not "one sarcastic word" or "one cutting word." Kindness isn't nasty. It is direct and strong. Don't you admire that in others when you see it? The times are indeed evil, but that doesn't call us to act in a mean spirit.
Come back to the woman in the supermarket for a minute. She wasn't an evil lady. She had two other kids that were around the corner already. She already had so much in her cup. It finally spilled over and landed all over her little boy. A kind word from a stranger was all she needed. "It happens to the best of parents." "Wish we could keep up with their energy." "Can I help you carry that?" Offer to help clean up a mess or get someone in the store to help.
Opportunities are around us all the time to offer a kind word, to get involved with others in a caring manner. Our natural tendency is usually to remain passive. It's not my kid. Keep walking. I don't have time to help that lady with her groceries, to give directions to that man who appears lost, to answer that question.
God is not asking you to solve everyone's problems. He does ask each of us to live the life He has given us. And that means we need to be aware of where He has placed us. We are in this world. A world of opportunities, needs, frustrations, problems. We only have the present moment in which to serve the Lord. Before you look for other opportunities to serve Him elsewhere, how about looking at the opportunities He has given you right now. Is there someone in the room with you now that needs a hug, a kind word and a listening ear? Is there someone you need to be assertive withtelling them the truth about something in kindness? If so, do it. This is the work God has called you to if you want to grow up in Him.
Warwick Cooper is Minister of Counseling and Family Ministries at The Peoples Church, Toronto, Ontario.