January 13, 2010

Rethinking Random Acts Of Kindness

The Children and Family Ministry Team at my church—of which I'm a member—is reading Craig Dykstra's Growing in the Life of Faith. Dykstra, a highly respected theologian and author of numerous books on Christian thought and practice, is a member of our church. This particular book is one I had left over from one of my own courses, but it was an auxiliary text that we never used. I'm glad I'm reading it now.

We've only begun the first few chapters, and I had the joy of teaching a couple last night. (One of the finest ways to learn is to teach.) While I'm coming away with a deeper understanding of a number of familiar ideas, one concept that Dykstra examined was a new way of thinking for me.

He proposes that the current popularity of "random acts of kindness" is not the direction we should be going in terms of expressing grace. Random acts are somewhat passive as we wait for the opportunity to present itself before we act. While it is a redeeming moment, only two (or few) people gain from the exchange.

Dykstra urges us to be more intentional in our grace, to make it a practice and one that is communal. That means being able to establish guidelines and boundaries and to communicate it to others, inviting their participation. By doing this, we share it among its practitioners and recipients: grace abounds. This easily applies to acts of service, but think how it would apply also to reading, prayer, daily routine, and more. I see brief bursts of such communal grace here on the Interwebs, and I see its power for good.

I find this very appealing. Those who receive my emails see Gandhi's quote (also posted under my banner); it is an urge to act upon the philosophy we have which makes this a better world. (Note that it doesn't say what that might be. A whole 'nother post.)

I find this new way of looking at "good deeds" very inviting. To be intentional sets it the forefront of our consciousness. While we continue to look for those moments where grace can make itself known, let us make it a communal practice in whatever way we can.

I will need some time to think about how I would turn my call to teach inclusiveness into a practice. It demands a structure that currently is not firm. I have been passive as I wait for opportunities to speak and teach. And I am learning so much. Every day brings a new awareness of just how much I do not know.

This happy coincidence of learning has energized me. May the grace which feeds me be known by all who wish it. That is my call.


Ur-spo said...

What lovely insensible ideas! good for you!

Christopher said...

I haven't been to your blog in forever, but I'm glad Google makes it so easy to find :-)

I hope all is well! If you remember in my blog I post a lot of videos mocking religion. However, I don't have a problem with spirituality. I just want you to know I always appreciated your blogs and your insight, so I don't want you to think I feel the same about you as I do about Pat Robertson. :-p

Anyway, take care!

the hobbit said...

Girl, life is hard enough as it is. I don't be havin' time to go out looking for good to do. I'll just do the good that presents itself to me.

When the Great Western World decides to give me time, I'll worry about being proactive, until then, all my good is the result of triage.

Patrick said...

I think this is lovely of rephrasing the idea of acting with intention. Gandhi's phrase, as well as one that Java has on her blog (I can't quite remember it, but I think it's William James, and says something like "act as if what you do matters; it does.") I will be giving this more thought.

Rox said...

I've been thinking alot about intention lately.

I totally get the whole random acts vs. intention thing.

Again, you are the most spiritually evolved person I know on the Interwebs. I always learn something here.