This year the author George Saunders was invited to give the convocation speech at Syracuse University. If you had the opportunity to speak to an assembly of students, what would you want to share with them? What advice would you give?
He said, “Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?” “
Now there’s a subject! While your mind spins through all the things raised by that question, this is what George Saunders regrets the most:
“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.”
He told a story about a little girl he failed to be kind to in school. He wasn’t nasty to her, but he didn’t defend her when she was teased. That’s all. But he can’t forget her. So why do we fail to be kind? He said we:
“prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.”
He said there are ways to be more kind, but it’s hard. I think it’s essential. We all need to be less selfish and more aware of what is going on around us. If you want to read the whole speech, which doesn’t mention religion, but talks a lot of sense, you can find it here. It’s well worth reading.
Even with good and sensible reasons to be kind, it’s still so often impossible, because of our human nature. Changing human nature is one result of giving your life to Jesus, because his priorities become your priorities, and his attitudes become your priorities. Not suddenly, but over time, as we become more like him.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor.3:18)