“I just wish people would be nice.”

That was the poignant response of a 12-year old boy to the fill-in-the-blank question, ” One thing I would change about the world is_______________.”  Joe (not his real name) was referred to me by his school counselor; there were alcohol problems in his family and he was struggling in school.

Joe was also mildly mentally challenged, which made him the target of the taunts and teasing of his classmates. He could have wished for the moon in filling in that blank on my questionnaire, but his longing was so simple – just that people would be nice.

Jesus wants the same thing. He gave us a pattern for what Joe wanted to change in the world:

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment…Here’s a simple rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get” (Matthew 7:1, 12, The Message).

Treat others the way you want to be treated yourself – this isn’t exactly rocket-science. It’s simple – but hard to do at times.

Jesus taught that the second greatest commandment is that we should love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves (Luke 10:27). (We call it the Golden Rule) The first and greatest commandment says we should love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind.

We don’t stand a chance of fulfilling the 2nd commandment if we haven’t followed the 1st one.  Love God – and the rest will follow. As we grow in our love for God, we will care about the things and people He cares about.

God has told us what is good and what He requires of us: Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

We are passionate about attaining our just desserts in this life, but when was the last time we took up the cause of injustice around us? January is Sanctity of Life Month. Most of us will have the opportunity within our churches to pray for and contribute financially to those on the front lines of that battle. In our community dedicated volunteers at Life Outreach offer alternatives to abortion and provide emotional support and practical services to women facing unplanned pregnancies.

January is also National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Friends in Grand Rapids are part of the Manasseh Project, working to shed light on the human trafficking that takes place in southwest Michigan. Attend their upcoming conference. Pray for them and the work they do.

Plato said, “Be kind; for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We rarely know what battles others face. The sullen teenager may be worried that his parents are getting divorced or about to lose their home to foreclosure. The waitress who screwed up your order may be distracted because she is dealing with her boyfriend’s abusive behavior.

Really. How much effort does it take to be kind to those we meet? With a little imagination and creativity, we could all think of random acts of kindness we could perform. Maybe this week we should all rent the movie “Pay It Forward” to be reminded of the power of kindness.

How well are you doing with walking humbly before God? Most of us would admit that we think we know better than God how and when He should answer our prayers. A good place to start might be to get on our knees and ask God to show us His will for us, and to give us the strength, wisdom and willingness to do it.

If we would do these simple things, our lives, our relationships, our homes, our workplaces…our world would be transformed.

If you’re like Joe, and wish people would be nice, I challenge you with the words of Mahatma Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Treat others the way you want to be treated. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God.




  1. Ruth Hill
    Jan 9, 2012

    Thanks for great post!

  2. Gail Ploe
    Jan 10, 2012

    Beautifully stated, as always…and oh so true.

  3. Jane
    Jan 10, 2012

    I was just talking with a girlfriend about this the other day. How much effort does it take, really, to add a smile and keep one’s tone of voice in check? It’s disheartening to witness so many instances of unkind behavior…starting at the mall in the returns line—*right* after Christmas. Amazing how the charity and goodwill of the season plummets when the calendar turns. Thanks for your post, Kathy!

  4. Kathy Fortney
    Jan 11, 2012

    Amen Joe. I agree. Well said Kathy. Keep em coming.

  5. Brenda
    Jan 18, 2012

    Amen to that sister! Traveling for the holidays is an eye opener too. There are so many in a rush to get to their destinations that some forget to just be nice. A simple smile goes a long way!

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