Friday, March 25, 2011


I've been busy.  But haven't we all been busy?  Life streams by, the minutes blurring into hours blurring into days.  But I think of you.  Often.  I hope you think of me, too.

Know what I did yesterday? I wrote.  Mmmm hmmm.  Last month, I was asked to write a column for Pittsburgh Catholic Magazine.  The topic?  Kindness in the family.  {I guess they're interested in my alter ego.} My article will come out in May.

Wanna read what I wrote?  You do?  Here you go, my lovelies.

My older brother, Geoff, and I rarely fought when we were growing up.  He was one of three my best friends, my parents being the other two. But it didn’t just happen like that from the beginning, let alone overnight. The love and kindness that developed in our family grew out of struggle and suffering. We moved around a lot when my brother and I were growing up. My dad worked in the steel industry, which had our family in five houses and four states by the time I was thirteen.  The new schools, the new neighborhoods, the new parishes—all of those changes forced us to rely on one another for familiarity, support, and consistency.  As if that wasn’t enough, my mother’s often debilitating chronic illness landed her in various hospitals for much of my and my brother’s childhood and early adult lives. We saw the commitment of my father as he became the primary caregiver for my mother, the words “in sickness and in health,” vowed before God. We saw the effort our mother put into providing for us as best she could under the circumstances, loving us and showing kindness to us in the best way she was physically and mentally able. My parents have always given of themselves for others, and it started in our home. Kindness, unconditional love and doing the right thing weren’t just some options; they were the only options.

We live in a culture that celebrates individualism.  I like to call it The Culture of Me.  We move from point A to point B while simultaneously scrolling on our iPhones, tapping on our Blackberry devices, listening to our iPods.  We’re in our bubbles, working overtime at our jobs so we can get ahead, get promoted, get a raise. We’re trying to squeeze more hours and activities into our days and weeks.  And while we’re doing these things, we’re exhausted.  We’re lonely.  We’re unfulfilled. Why do we feel this way?  

Because we’ve literally turned inward.

It’s no wonder we’re lonely and exhausted. It’s no wonder that we’ve gotten cranky and irritable. It’s no wonder we’ve become less-than-kind to our neighbors.  We’re trying to function alone.  But God created us to be with—and to love and serve—one another.

When we extend kindness in a truly unconditional and intentional way, we form a connection with the person to whom we give.  What a precious and holy gift of our humanity!  So how do we give intentionally?  We can do the unexpected for someone.  We can pay attention to what’s going on with and to the people around us. We can think about the battles they may be fighting, help carry their armor.  Better yet, we can offer to wear all of it for a while.  When we live for each other and we take care of each other, everyone is taken care of.

If we wait for moments when kindness and service to others seems an obvious choice, then we lose the beauty and grace and dignity associated with it.  We can’t wait until just the right moment to be kind.  We can’t wait until it’s convenient or expected or obvious.  We must be kindness.  Live it.  Let kindness be a verb in and through us.  We must be intentional in our actions of love and kindness towards others.  We must turn the Culture of Me into a Culture of We.

Life isn’t easy for any family, of course, but I think it is the struggles and suffering we experience within our families that teach us to rely on one other, to appreciate one another, and to love and serve each other from the deepest parts of our hearts.  It was through love that my parents formed a union.  It was through love that my parents brought my brother and me into the world.  And it is through love that we as a family have chosen to continue to write the narrative of our lives, for each other and for the world around us.

 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:3-7). 

If there is anything we are put on this earth to do, it is to love and serve one another in the likeness of Jesus.  And it must start in the loving bonds of our earthly family.