A New Year’s REVOLUTION?

My wife gave me a great gift this Christmas – a book by Tim Lewis called Land of Second Chances. It’s about Team Rwanda, a cycling team that formed about a decade after the genocide in Rwanda. The book is also about those from other parts of the world who made their way to Africa to start various cycling teams at the turn of the century. One person who is mentioned is a man from Singapore named Nicholas Leong, who was a commercial photographer before coming to Kenya to help form a Kenyan cycling team. Leong did well as a photographer, but said he realized if he stuck to photography, “At the end of my life, there really would be nothing I could point to and say, ‘I did that, and if I hadn’t, it would not have been done at all.’”

That quote got me thinking about New Year’s resolutions. I tend to make them each year, but my resolutions are more like goals, things I want to professionally or personally accomplish over the coming 12 months. What if everyone resolved to live out Leong’s quote? Imagine how it would change the world if each of us resolved to do something that if we ourselves had not done it, it would not have been done at all.

Of course we don’t all need to quit our jobs and move to Kenya to have a profound impact. Imagine how you could change your future if you were the first in your family to earn a college degree. How many lives could you impact for good if you stopped drinking or using drugs? How would things be different for you every day if you gave up the safety net of your comfortable job and did something you jumped out of bed for every day because you really loved doing it?

So as you begin 2014, my challenge for you is to not make a New Year’s resolution. Instead, begin dreaming about what you can do that if you don’t do it, it will never be done. Then do that thing. If we all did, it would start a revolution of good.

The Importance of Practicing Kindness

I recently read Chronicles: Volume One, Bob Dylan’s excellent autobiography. While the stories behind Dylan’s start in the music business and his extended take on making the album Oh Mercy were fascinating, the one line that has stuck with me the most is something Dylan’s grandmother said to him. She told him to “be kind because everyone you’ll ever meet is fighting a hard battle.”

It’s true isn’t it? We’re all fighting a hard battle. Maybe not right now, but if we’re not fighting a hard battle today, it’s just a pause in the action. Those we like and tend to remember with most fondness are people who have been kind to us, those who have helped us along our way. Like the old saying goes, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

One of the interesting things about practicing kindness is that the more we do it, the more we have genuine affection for others. Being kind doesn’t just help others, it changes us and how we see others. C. S. Lewis said, “with all your innumerable choices…you are slowly turning into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself.”

If you want to experience the benefits of being kind, try an experiment. Be intentionally kind to all those you meet. After all, they are fighting a hard battle and we all need some help along our way.