That will include for most of us, I’m sure, at least two concerns of global consequence. One is Covid-19 and the pressing effects of the Omicron variant. Another is the climate crisis, with its increasingly dire impact on the lives and welfare of many around the world.
It’s all too easy to feel helpless in the face of such huge year-on-year challenges but, nonetheless, the truth is we can all do something! We can all make a difference: adjusting our behaviours and habits to limit the spread of the virus and reduce carbon emissions.
I want to step into the New Year carrying this confident message: we can all make a difference! Let’s not be so daunted by the size of any problem that we end up feeling too small to respond. As someone once said: ‘If you feel you’re too insignificant to make a difference, you’ve never had a mosquito in your bed!’
As I look to this New Year, I really want to bring that same confidence to another concern that we carry with us: the disturbing rise of intolerance, of physical and verbal violence within society.
Yes, alongside the tragic Covid-19 pandemic, we’re suffering a growing pandemic of anger, vitriol and lack of basic respect. Alongside the rising global temperatures, we’re observing a worrying overheating of intolerance and prejudice.
The horrific killing of Sir David Amess in October was a brutal example, but it’s sadly replicated all too frequently in ill-treatment and bitterness directed at all and sundry – online and face-to-face. The art of ‘‘disagreeing without being disagreeable’’ seems to be waning.
Now here again, perhaps we might feel at a loss as to what we can possibly do to respond. But let me repeat my refrain: we can all make a difference!
I want to suggest 2022 is the year we resolve to join together in a proactive ‘‘kindness revolution’’. We simply cannot afford to be passive and shrug our shoulders. As the well- known quote rightly says: ‘‘All it takes for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing.’’
So, what about resolving to be part of this kindness revolution? And if you’re thinking that it all sounds a bit ‘‘soft’’ – this invitation to ‘‘just be a bit kinder’’ – please think again. It will be costly to be part of the kindness revolution.
It will take determination to choose kindness in the face of unkindness. It will demand that every day we choose to do something positive rather than opt to do nothing. It will mean that we choose to welcome the stranger rather than turn away, and to build bridges rather than walls.
It will involve us ‘‘counting to 10’’ and choosing a gentler response in the face of aggression and anger, rather than responding with a knee-jerk reaction. It will sometimes mean standing out from our peers, rather than going along with the majority.
But here’s the thing, every single act of kindness has an impact. Every kind word, action, even smile can soften the atmosphere, reduce the temperature, and create a safer, gentler world.
It’s illuminating that the word ‘‘kindness’’ comes from the Old English ‘‘kyndnes’’ which meant ‘‘nation’’, with its origin in the word ‘‘kin’’, as in one’s family or race. This evolved into our more modern understanding of “courtesy or noble deeds”.
So, the call to active kindness is expressing a priority for inclusivity and acceptance. It’s about affirming all we truly hold in common – celebrating and honouring our shared humanity. And then choosing to actively pursue the flourishing and wellbeing of every human life.
Just a few days ago, we celebrated the birth of Jesus, God’s Son. There’s a wonderful verse in the short book of Titus in the New Testament, which reminds us that in Jesus ‘‘the kindness of God appeared’’.
This kindness was demonstrated in the practical welcoming and loving example of Jesus, even when he was not welcomed or loved.
So, here’s my New Year’s Resolution: to do all I can to bring about a kindness revolution. One act of kindness at a time. Kindness that impacts on reducing the spread of Covid, kindness that involves being a better steward of the earth, kindness that improves the atmosphere and culture of our society. I hope you might choose to join me? Will you make the kindness revolution resolution? Together we really can make a difference.
Reverend Leslie Newton is Chair of the Yorkshire North and East Methodist District.
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