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What Good Shall I Do This Day?

Call to action: Do something about Failures of Kindness

What Good Shall I Do This Day? thanks to Dan MacAulay

'Love your neighbor as yourself' - Mark 12:31

In 2018 the writer George Saunders gave a Convocation Speech on the subject of kindness to the graduates of Syracuse University. In the speech, he recalls some of the bigger mistakes and mishaps of his life, and notes that despite their negative consequences, he regrets none of them. Instead, it is a small moment from his youth, a foible of omission rather than commission, that still niggles at him:

"In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class. In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be 'Ellen.' Ellen was small, shy. She wore these blue cat's-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore. When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased ("Your hair taste good?" - that sort of thing). I could see this hurt her. I still remember the way she'd look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear. After awhile she'd drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth. At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: "How was your day, sweetie?" and she'd say, "Oh, fine." And her mother would say, "Making any friends?" and she'd go, "Sure, lots."

Sometimes I'd see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then - they moved. That was it. No tragedy, no big final hazing. One day she was there, next day she wasn't. End of story.

Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still. It bothers me. So here's something I know to be true, although it's a little corny, and I don't quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded... Sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly."
 
When I ask myself, 'What good shall I do this day?' this story will never be far from my mind. I found myself looking back over some of the times of my life when I saw hurting or rejected people and I recognized the response of George Saunders as also my response: sensible, reserved, mild.

Make a sincere decision with your life so that you will not miss the opportunities to love your neighbor as yourself, and not allow failures of kindness to be a part of you. This is one of the key ways you can honor God with all of your life.

QuotaBills
All's fair in love and war. - John Lyly

Aspire to inspire before we expire. - Unknown

Ah me! love can not be cured by herbs. - Ovid

I love children if they're cooked properly. - WC Fields

Love - a temporary insanity curable by marriage. - Ambrose Bierce

Make love, not war... or get married and do both. - Unknown

Love is like war: easy to begin but very hard to stop. - H L Mencken

Love conquers all things; let us too surrender to love. - Virgil

Love. Of course, love. Flames for a year, ashes for 30. - Giuseppi di Lampedusa

Christ showed us hope transformed into sacrificial love. - Chuck Colson

Free love is a black and white contradiction in two words. - G K Chesterton

Love your neighbor as yourself, but choose your neighborhood. - Louise Beal

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. - Bertrand Russell

I'm super laid back. I'm from Texas. I love my family. - Selena Gomez

I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork. - Peter de Vries

True love is like little roses, sweet, fragrant in small doses. - Ana Claudia Antunes

Trust no friend without faults, and love a woman, but no angel. - Doris Lessing

Love ceases to be a puzzle the moment you find the missing piece. - Olaotan Fawehinmi

Perfect love means to love the one through whom one became unhappy. - Soren Kierkegaard

Be to their virtue very kind;
be to their faults a little blind. - Matthew Prior

Be kind to your mother-in-law but pay for her board at some good hotel. - Josh Billings

It is very difficult to give away kindness. It keeps coming back to you. - Unknown

One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love. - Sophocles

Love wouldn't be blind if the braille weren't so damned much fun. - Armistead Maupin

Inspiration at its best means breath, and only too frequently means wind. - G K Chesterton

Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake a whole relationship. - Sharon Stone

I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love or I had smallpox. - Woody Allen

Thank you, God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough. - Garrison Keillor

They say love's like the measles - all the worse when it comes late in life. - Douglas William Jerrold

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It isn't enough for you to love money - it's also necessary that money should love you. - Kin Hubbard

Inspiration comes unawares, from unaccountable sources that have nothing to do with planning or intelligence. - Maurice Chevalier

Even in the midst of life's adversity, struggle or strife, love's enduring presence remains steadfast. - Eleesha

The workers love Khrushchev very much. He hasn’t got an enemy in the entire country. Quite a few under it. - Bob Hope

I have a huge interest in hockey because I grew up in Canada, where it's kind of the law that you love hockey. - Matthew Perry

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite. - William Shakespeare

As a travel writer I've specialized in gritty, fearful destinations, the kind of places that make a reader's hair stick on end. - Tahir Shah

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return. - Maya Angelou

I used to live an isolated existence, even in relationships, but now my family knows me for who I really am. Mostly, that's a good thing. - Tim Allen


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