Friday, February 21, 2014

What Do We Do With People?

People drive me nuts.

I know, I know. Hardly a Christian thing to say, right? Probably the fact that I am so often annoyed by other human beings is one of my biggest failings (Which of the Seven Deadly Sins is that? Maybe Pride?) 

In any case, I only mention this because yesterday morning, nearly everyone around me drove me particularly nuts. Yesterday morning did not start out with a bang, since within fifteen minutes of waking up I slipped and fell - hard! - on my icy driveway. People problems just made my day worse: I got stuck behind slow drivers on my way into work, I got criticized, I found my students not following my directions. 

By the time I got home, the most glorious thing I could imagine was spending two hours reading a book, exactly what I did.

But sometimes, people are wonderful. 

When I got up this morning, the sun was shining. I did not slip on the icy sidewalks on my way to the gym. Then I got home, went to make coffee, and discovered that my roommate had left a Dove chocolate in the (empty and dry) coffeepot for me, with the note, Hope today is sweeter! 

Indeed it was: My students in Intro to Literature had a great, thoughtful discussion about colonialism; my students in Creative Writing invented some truly fine ideas for their short stories. The people driving in front of me drove at a normal speed. 

The Atlantic published an article tracking murder and suicide rates in large cities. Murder rates go up in big cities, but suicide rates go down. Their conclusion? Sure, people drive us nuts sometimes, but they're also there to pick us up when we fall, help us dust off our knees and carry on with life. 

This, I think, rings true at least with my experience. I am made angry, and disappointed, and upset, and frustrated with other people, but I am also comforted and encouraged by other people. They have sent me notes when I needed them; they have encouraged me when I needed it; they have been honest about what my faults are. (Where would we be without best friends who trust us enough to be honest with us?) My life may be more complicated because other people are in it, but it is also richer and sweeter because other people are in it. 

That got me thinking: I wonder what I can do to make other people's lives richer and sweeter? I am absolutely certain that I annoy other people; surely I can contribute something positive as well? 

When I was in youth group, we had nights that we called RAK: Random Acts of Kindness. Usually these involved picking up someone that hadn't been attending youth group for a while and taking them out for ice cream, hardly the kind of sacrificial love spelled out in the Bible. 

Yet the idea of RAK is a good one: showing kindness to other people, showing them the love of Christ, especially when their life (and the other people around them) might be everything but loving. 

The only question is, how? Putting chocolate in a student's mailbox seems a bit trite, but it's a start. Perhaps I'll try that this weekend. I have a note that I should write to a friend. Perhaps I'll do that. I sponsor a child in India through Compassion International. Perhaps I'll go through the rigmarole of figuring out what the heck my password is on Compassion's website and actually write her a letter. None of these are earth-shattering, but then, neither was the piece of chocolate I found in the coffee pot this morning. It was still very much appreciated. 

At least while we're here on this earth, we're never going to get to the point where people don't annoy us. The question is not, How can we get less annoyed? The question  is, How can we, though annoyed, show love to others?

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