By Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
According to Google’s “National Day” calendar, Oct. 5 was “National Do Something Nice Day!” Many of the designated days are silly and just for fun, but this one really made me think about how we’re often pulled in two directions. Today, our national politics are divided over everything from mask mandates to lowering the debt ceiling.
Locally, we’ve been affected by issues like the publicized arrest of a coach and costly vandalism to the bathrooms in Richmond Hill schools.
Add to that, the 1,600 people a day who are still dying from COVID-19. Those are just some of the negatives we face right now, which can leave us plenty of room and reason to feel down and discouraged.
On the other hand, there’s a positive side! Thanks to fewer people being infected and hospitalized, Bryan County seems to be on the downswing with COVID. We’re enjoying cooler mornings, which is no small thing in our warm climate! On a personal note, a couple of weeks ago, my wife, Chris, and I had an experience that touched our hearts. We treated ourselves to breakfast at Sunrise Café, where we were seated next to an older gentleman. After exchanging names and pleasantries for a few moments, we all settled down to enjoy our meals. Later, as we started to pay our bill, the waitress explained that the gentleman next to us had already bought our breakfast. I’d never met the man before and have no idea who he is, but what a nice, pay-it-forward moment!
The challenge for all of us is deciding what we’ll choose to focus on and lift up. Will it be the dangerous happenings in our schools and negative occurrences in our world and politics? Or will we choose to see and celebrate the positive, grace-filled moments that frequently break into our lives? I always tell our Confirmation classes that faith is both the ability and the conviction to look at the world through eyes of grace and hope. We all live in the same world, but we look at it differently. The challenge for us, as Christians, is to see God in our midst – be that simply in a cool morning, a beautiful sunrise or in someone who randomly does something nice.
A colleague of mine says, “Be the Gospel you seek!”
That’s what resonated with me on “Do Something Nice Day.” How can we be the Gospel? By being a grace-filled presence to those around us and seizing the opportunity to serve someone else. It doesn’t mean ignoring the national and local news or pretending bad things don’t happen.
It’s having the conviction and accepting the challenge of being that grace-filled, servant-hearted, hopeful person — perhaps, in effect, being God for those who are unable to see God in their world.
While it’s good to have calendar days that remind us of our blessings and encourage us to do something nice for someone, for Christians, being a grace-filled presence isn’t only for a specified day – it’s a lifestyle. Likewise, it’s the responsibility of the entire community to be the good neighbor we want others be. There are big things going on in the world, but life really comes down to the simple, random opportunities we have every day to be gracious, generous and hopeful for the person right in front of us. And if that becomes our focus, we realize how simple being a disciple and a good neighbor can be.