Resolve to be kind to others this year

I read this recently and thought you might enjoy it as much as I did: A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging out the wash. “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looks on, remaining silent.

Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comment. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband, “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?” The husband replies, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”

So it is with life. What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look.

Sometimes we are quick to criticize and slow to praise. Finding what is wrong is sometimes easier than looking for what is right.

I will never forget a lesson I tried to teach to one of my seventh-grade Sunday School classes. I wanted them to look for the good in one another, to learn how to give a compliment and how to receive one.

There were 10 students in the class. I gave each student nine slips of paper. I asked the students to write one nice thing about every classmate. I watched as the students were writing their slips. I recognized the frustration on some of their faces. No doubt they were struggling with what to write about one of the students. He had some disabilities and at times he was disruptive. Although I never witnessed the kids saying or doing anything mean or unkind to him, I also never saw any of them talk with him or go out of their way to be nice to him.

I started reading the comments out loud. Someone in the class thinks Mark sings really good. Someone else in the class enjoys Mark’s sense of humor. Another slip says Becky has beautiful hair and is fun to be with. Here’s one that says Kari can play the flute really well and she is nice to animals.

I finally got to the slips that were marked Bobby (not his real name). As I paged through the nine slips, I discovered each and every one of the slips was about his shirt. I read someone says, Bobby has a nice shirt on today. Someone else thinks Bobby’s shirt is pretty. Another likes the color of Bobby’s shirt.

Bobby didn’t recognize the fact that none of the compliments were really about him; they were just about his shirt. Upon hearing the comments, Bobby jumped right up off his chair. He clapped his hands and with a broad smile said, “You like my shirt, you like my shirt. I am so happy. Thank you. Thank you.”

The room went quiet. As I looked around, I noticed the tears in the eyes of several of Bobby’s classmates. It was clear this was the first time they really paid attention to Bobby. They had never looked for the many good things about him, they just knew he was “different.” They had not noticed his beautiful smile or his hearty laugh. They hadn’t realized how much a kind word would mean to him.

They didn’t see the pained look in his eyes when no one sat next to him. I guess they just never gave Bobby a second thought.

An amazing thing happened. On the following Sundays, I noticed the kids greeting Bobby, sometimes even including him in their conversations. They seemed to take turns sitting next to him. I was so proud of those kids: They got it.

All through our lives, we learn life’s lessons. I learned from that experience, too.

During 2018, I have resolved to try to be a kinder person. I am going to do one special act of kindness every week. That’s 52 in a year; a resolution I can keep. Will you join me? Together, what a difference we can make!

Trivia question: When was H&R Block established in Shawano and who was the founder? (Answer on Page A5.)

Clothesline Conversation Answer: H&R Block was established in Shawano in 1967. The founder was Donald L. Moede.

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.