A few days ago, a church member gave me a belated birthday present with these words, “I think you might find a gem for a sermon in this book.” The text of the book is a transcript of George Saunders’ convocation address in 2013 at Syracuse University, where he teaches creative writing. The title is Congratulations, by the way: Some Thoughts on Kindness. I read it in twelve minutes. You can also view it on You-Tube in about the same amount of time. The first thing I thought about after reading it was the Bible verses that I learned in early childhood, one of them being, “Be ye kind one to another” (Ephesians 4:32–KJV, of course!). So simple? Ought to be. It’s one of those things that is “simple” but not “easy.” Saunders explains that we are born with “built-in confusions” about who we are. Those “confusions” always lead us to having to work hard if we are ever to let go of a deep level of self-centeredness—which seems to be basic to the human condition and inevitably leads to misery. The sooner we get to work on that self-centeredness, the more time we have to enjoy being kind—and the more joy and peace we will experience in our lives and share with the world. We have countless times to practice every day—to ask ourselves the question over and over, “Am I being kind right now?” We will never regret it.
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