This past Friday, our LEAD Greater Williamsburg Class launched our kindness initiative. About 200 people from Williamsburg, James City County, and York County gathered to learn how they could commit to kindness. One of the highlights was keynote speaker former Mayor Tom Tait. Mayor Tait served for many years on City Council in Anaheim, California. He described his work with City Council as a game of “Whack-a-Mole,” where they were constantly trying to snuff out “symptoms,” whether they be drug abuse, homelessness, or violence. What he slowly came to realize was this model of treating the symptoms was not getting to the root of the problem – the fact that the whole body was sick. And so, he ran for Mayor on a campaign of kindness. He believed kindness would transform the entire body, or system, in such a way that the symptoms would go away – because the entire body would learn to operate in a healthier way.
After the event, as I spoke with clergy about the theology of kindness, we came to a few conclusions. First, we agreed that embodying kindness is one way that people of faith can embody God – the same God that is regularly described as showing loving-kindness, or hesed, in Hebrew. Our acts of kindness help us to show forth and experience God in our community. But as we talked about Mayor Tait’s analogy, we realized that showing kindness gets to the root of Jesus’ work. Jesus was often seen healing what may be seen as symptoms – leprosy, blindness, hemorrhaging. But what Jesus was really doing was healing entire systems. Each healed person was restored to wholeness in the community, with no barriers to full membership in the community. Christ was concerned about the presenting symptoms and suffering of individuals – but what his work was really about was restoring the entire body to wholeness.
The kindness campaign #WMBGkind is an incredible movement because it seeks to do just the same thing – transform our entire community from one that can be divided or cynical, to being a community transformed to wholeness through kindness. As members of the faith community of Greater Williamsburg, we have an opportunity to be leaders in that transformative work: because we were commissioned through our baptism to be agents of healing and wholeness, because we can be a powerful witness of God’s love through our kindness, and because, as members of the “body” of our community, we will be transformed too. This Sunday at Hickory Neck, you will be invited into this commitment to kindness – or as we as persons of faith would call it, into doing acts consistent with our baptismal identity. I look forward to seeing you then, as we work toward transforming our community, one act of kindness at a time!