In the post war 1940’s and 1950’s people sat on front porches and conversed with their neighbors. Today we hide from one another on our back decks, behind pressure treated screens. Families collectively ate something called “dinner” together around a table of some kind. People had something called “verbal conversations” inclusive of complete sentences, body language and eye contact. Back then there were “emoji-less smiles” and something akin to real laughter. If I could time travel, I would visit this era just long enough to enjoy it but not long enough to suffer through the absence of air conditioning.
In the 40’s and 50’s, kids played outside and parents didn’t worry about it. Children found the sidewalk to be their screen time and chalk worked just fine, no keyboard necessary. Societies certainly advance in many ways, but our advancements are actually declines in some ways.
This 50’s era produced people like Fred Rogers and millions found themselves vicariously enjoying Mr. Roger’s beautiful neighborhood on the inside of their homes on television sets. Children got their exercise changing the channel for their parents or adjusting the rabbit ears.
I recently marveled at Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Fred Rogers on screen. I didn’t necessarily want to see the movie, but it was the only option I had at that time of the day that didn’t involve sex, death and destruction. In the course of 109 minutes, the movie made an incision in my chest cavity, opened and exposed my heart, only to yank it out and re-calibrated it toward others. Fred killed me with kindness. He slayed me. Go see the movie. I left this encounter longing for kindness. For ten bucks I was far less jaded, more open to listening to others and less interested in hearing myself talk.
That movie wasn’t a movie at all. It was more of a counseling session. Go see the counseling session. I encourage you to analyze your capacity for consistent, tender, patient kindness towards anyone at any time, with no exceptions. I also encourage you to watch a clip of Fred Rogers accepting a lifetime Emmy award on You-Tube that left many in Hollywood to weeping. Was this guy for real? The answer is “affirmative.” He was for real. He was the kind of man that was kind. He embodied kindness. We all have different personalities and experiences and we are “wired” in different ways, but I think we all could stand to be a bit more kind to one another. Sometimes we treat our spouses and children like strangers, and we miss opportunities to simply be attentive and kind. Fred sought to never avoid a subject that was controversial or uncomfortable. This movie wasn’t for children to the exclusion of adults. This movie was about helping adults be less childish and more childlike. Fred got me. I need to watch it again because cynicism is chasing after me again. Go see the movie.
What happened to kindness? Kindness got annihilated by busyness. Maybe the depersonalization of the human race has nearly suffocated kindness. Maybe somewhere in God’s economy, kindness is making a comeback. In some way we have Fred Rogers to thank for that. Where did Fred get his kindness? He prayed and read scripture. I pray and read scripture but I am no Fred Rogers. I have some things to think about and I have some things to act upon. Like you, I don’t live in the 1940’s or 50’s. We live in 2020 and we live in an era parched by a lack of time to even be kind. Don’t take the bait today. People are more important than projects. Have a face to face conversation today where you actually hang on every word another person is saying. Feel their heart and even their pain. Let empathy rule in the land, if for only a few minutes. We as a culture are slowly slipping into a world where hardly anyone cares and many who say they do, really don’t. Go see the movie.
You are a walking and talking reservoir of kindness who can satiate others with genuine concern. Someone in your life today can ill-afford to be passed by. Look for them. You may be surprised what little distance exists between you and them. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.
Dr. Gary Hewins is the President of lifepoints.org, a coaching and consulting ministry to ministry leaders and preachers and the Senior Pastor of Community Bible Church in the picturesque mountains of Highlands, N.C.