From the desk of Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II, Ph.D.
Recently, MVNU set a day aside to practice kindness. I think this was a phenomenally excellent idea. Our culture is feeding us a constant diet of venom and vitriol these days. MVNU is better than this and a day of kindness made that point. I enjoyed reading the Tweets (yes, Twitter can be gracious) as they flowed across my cell phone on that day. William Wordsworth wrote, “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” One of my favorite scenes in the recent movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, involved a conversation Fred Rogers had with Lloyd. Mr. Rogers asked him to pause for one minute and think of all the people who had loved him into existence. It is a moving scene because the people in the restaurant were family and friends of Fred Rogers. It was difficult to see this scene without tears forming in my eyes. Kindness is the key that unlocks our capacity to love.
The scripture places kindness in an important position. Paul writes, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). I believe that the love of Christ flows through our lives to others in kindness. If we dare to call ourselves Christian, we should practice kindness boldly. Admittedly, there are precious few examples of kindness in social media and politics. It is easy to dismiss or marginalize another person through mean tweets or vicious humor. My mother often quoted a bit of popular wisdom to me when I was young. She said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” She sought to comfort me from taunts and hateful speech with this little bit of wisdom. After many years of life and a few battle scars, I can confidently say that the little rhyme is false. Words matter! Kindness matters!
Perhaps all of us need to grow thicker skin these days. I know that University Presidents need an extra layer of skin. Yet I know that our lives would be infinitely better if we learned to practice kindness. My prayer is that a “Day of Kindness” would grow to be a life of kindness. Might we use social media to bless and redeem rather than embarrass others? Could I be so bold as to suggest that we learn the craft of “Practicing Kindness?” The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, linked virtue with habits/practices. He proposed that good habits lead to virtue and bad habits contribute to vice. Kindness is a good habit! The practice of kindness builds human excellence (virtue). Ultimately, kindness arises from gracious practice. Paul lists kindness among the Fruit of the Spirit. He contrasts kindness with enmities and strife.
It is my prayer that the MVNU Community will be an example of kindness in action. I know this will happen at the point we begin to measure our words by the vision of God’s love. May it be so!
Photo: University President Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II, Ph.D. celebrates Campus Kindness Day with a yellow tie. Photo from Sharon Spaulding.