"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12
When I was first found by Christ in 1973, there was an overwhelming sense of the kindness that flowed from Father Matthias, the monk at New Melleray Abbey Monastery who led me to Christ and then mentored me in the ensuing months. My questions, sorrows, brokenness, and snarky attitude were always met with his kindness. Unbeknownst to me, Father “Jim” was not only loving me as Christ would, he was fully embracing the Rule of St. Benedict, which is “to receive all guests as if they were Christ.” For me, kindness was the doorway into faith.
As New York City continues to unravel with unparalleled lawlessness and vacancy, one wonders how we can revive and restore the dignity of our nation’s arguably greatest city. Churches are empty, homeless shelters are closed, the homeless are living on the streets, and people are running out of funds to pay for basic things like food and rent. Eighty percent of New York City restaurants cannot pay their rent. The near future bears a foreboding that no one wants to embrace or acknowledge. As the New York Fellowship plans our next year, we have to factor in that meetings beyond six people are not sanctioned, restaurants are not easily accessible (although there are outdoor dining options while the weather is fair), Broadway theaters and museums are closed, and 500,000 people have left Manhattan.
In the late 1970s, Sheila and I arrived separately to New York City during the height of its financial demise when homelessness and crime were rampant—now resurfacing today. It now strikes us with irony and a new sort of spiritual calling that our city has returned to the dark days of when we first arrived and I was engaged in street ministry.
As people of the Cross who are seeking to love our Lord and care for those who are put in our lives, we look for opportunities to live out the love of Christ. As they say in 12-Step programs, it is “attraction not promotion” which draws people to the truth and healing. My guess is that people who either choose not to leave or cannot leave NYC are the ones who most especially need to be loved, cared for, heard, and spiritually nurtured.
During a summer vacation recently, I was driving up a mountain road at dusk during a rainy night. I spotted a disabled car with four young people milling around trying to figure out what to do--they were in an area where their cell phone had no service and their car had broken down. Sporting a Rugby shirt and FDNY hat, I pulled over and asked “can I help you?”
“We have a flat tire and don’t know how to fix it,” they shared. Their various t-shirts proclaimed visuals of Che Guevera/Martin Luther King/Black Lives Matter. I showed them how to get their spare, use the jack and change their tire. I asked if I could pray for them; they looked curiously at each other and said “sure.” As I was leaving they said “Thank you, sir, for your kindness... it made a difference.” Then they added that they all had gone to Brown University together, where “we learned a lot of stuff but not how to change a tire.”
Let’s pray that an act of kindness, a prayer, and a witness to Christ will inspire the younger generation’s search for meaning. We don’t have to go far to care for people. We can unexpectedly come upon one person to whom we can show kindness in the name of the Lord.
Pray for us as we seek to be a part of spiritual renewal in what has been called the greatest city in the world.
Yours in Christ’s Service,