Standing at the deli counter in my local grocery store, Audrey, my four year old daughter and shopping companion, was hopping up and down. The deli worker had just handed me a sample of turkey. Audrey began a loud, demanding monologue. “I want that. I like turkey. Is that for you? Give me some. Give me some NOW!”
Calmly, without missing a beat, I said, “I expect you to be kind to me. So, ask me kindly.” Without missing a beat, she asked, “Momma, can I have a piece of that turkey?” She and I snacked happily while we waited on our order.
“I expect you to be kind to me.” I don’t know when I started saying this out loud to my children but I know it is central to my parenting. I am kind to my children with my words and actions. I work long hours making sure they have healthy meals, clean clothes, and help with homework. I am kind. I expect kindness in return.
One Sunday I was all smiles from leading a very happy and meaningful baby dedication in worship. As the church family streamed out the doors, a female member stopped me and noted, “Those shoes are entirely inappropriate on you. They are too racy.” I looked at those shoes which I thought I wore with grace and style, and then I looked at her and apologized for being inappropriate. She was unkind to me and I accepted it. Why did I not say, “I am kind to you. I expect you to be kind to me.”?
In our ministries, we encounter people who are hopping up and down while making demands of us. Often, these same people are rude and unkind. Obviously we acknowledge grief, loss and pain as reasons people may be uncharacteristically unkind. However, it is often the congregants who we serve late into the night and beyond our resources of time and energy who target us for unkind remarks and actions. At what point, do we calmly point out that kindness is supposed to echo kindness? I am kind to you. I expect you to be kind to me.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, mother of two amazing daughters, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.