I’m back! I had a wonderful study leave and vacation. I spend my study leave up at Crystal Mountain, Michigan working out scripture texts and message titles for the coming year. It was both interesting and productive time. For vacation we moved further north and east to a condo about half way between Harbor Springs and Petoskey Michigan. We kayaked on the AuSable River, visited Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City and journeyed over to Charlevoix to see the Mushroom houses. We also picked up food at our favorite restaurants and even ventured into a few favorite shops in Harbor Springs and Petoskey. I will tell you that we felt quite safe because of the strict protective measures in Michigan. Stores are limited to 10 customers inside and many places require you wait at the door to be invited inside. People not wearing masks or wearing them improperly can be asked to leave and can be prosecuted for trespassing for refusing.
The result of these strict measures can be seen in the state’s Covid statistics. Michigan has one of the lower incidence of the virus after having dealt with rapid spread in the early days of the pandemic. These strict measures have been met with some resistance. We saw some high school parents and students protesting in Petoskey because the High School team sports have been cancelled for the fall. At the same time, however, we experienced gracious behavior among the people we met on the street and in the shop keepers. Most people went out of their way to spread out on the sidewalks, to don masks when they came near and to be kind. I attribute this in part to the signs that were posted everywhere in the cities we visited: Traverse City, Franklin, Petoskey, Mackinaw City, Harbor Springs and Charlevoix. Each of the signs said the same thing: “Mask on, Wash up, Spread out, Be Kind.” The sign pictured above is from Traverse City.
I was struck by this sign when I saw it. I expected the first three directives that had to do with safety in this strange pandemic season. I did not expect the last direction: Be Kind. It seemed so obvious to me. Of course we should be kind. And yet… in this strange pandemic season, many of us are finding our patience stretched thin. There is tension in our country that we see on the news and read about in our phones. Frankly, I am outraged by some of what I see and read. Additionally the sense of loss we feel for the life we knew “before Covid” wears on us until our spirits droop. In such trying times it is easy to find the frustration and anger building inside until it squirts out at someone… anyone who happens to be near. Maybe we need a reminder to “be kind.” I wonder if this posted reminder all across the cities in the northern part of the lower peninsula helped people remember that kindness is a value we share as Americans.
Kindness is also a definite Christian value. Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Col. 3:12. Paul, of course, did not come to these values naturally. In the early days Paul was a zealous persecutor of Christians. He even stood over Stephen’s execution. But Jesus got a hold of him on the road to Damascus and Paul changed. In Colossians Paul invited the church there and invites us to embrace compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Perhaps we should write these words on sticky notes and post them around our homes to remind us of who we are – God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, who of course should “be kind”.
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