Astonishing the World with Kindness

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, November 10, 2023

My wish for you is that you continue. Continue . . . to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.” ―Maya Angelou

There are times when I remember what my parents and grandparents endured during the darkest years of Jim Crow segregation and discrimination, and I wonder how they were able to keep going. They come to mind often nowadays, especially since the violence erupted in Israel and Gaza, and we see the gruesomeness of war destroy lives, homes, and security. Amid feelings of weariness and helplessness, I can resort to the prerogatives of a privileged people: I can look away. But not for long. Because I know that we are called to do justice. I know there is a word of love, hope, and mercy for a mean world. My ancestors, both at the mercy of racist oppression and a people of profound faith, did not falter. In their bouts of weariness and helplessness, they kept going. Or, as my father used to say, “We keep on keeping on.” And theirs was not just an isolated pursuit of personal salvation. They lightened their burden with service and kindness. They sang, danced, laughed, and worshiped amid the injustice and violence. They never lost their belief in and commitment to human worth, dignity, and possibility.

As we look upon a world that appears to be spiraling ever more chaotically and violently toward a point of no return from ecological devastation, economic exploitation, and military destruction, we may despair that we possess nothing that could turn the tide. The ubiquity of violence and the inevitability of failure can be enough to dishearten the stoutest of constitutions. And yet, we keep going. The poet Maya Angelou turned the idea of “keeping on keeping on” into a prayer: “My wish for you is that you continue.” But the power in her prayer is that it was not a private, personal prayer for just the person needing encouragement. It’s a prayer that we unleash kindness and laughter in the world. It is a prayer that we find the strength to keep looking out for the worth, dignity, and possibility of ourselves and others.

We used to sing a song in the church of my youth based upon the Apostle Paul’s closing admonition to the Galatians. Paul tells the church, “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up” (6:9). If we continue to show kindness, continue to pursue justice, and continue to honor the worth, dignity, and possibility of every human life, we will reap a harvest of blessings, showing the world a better way to live and thrive in belovedness. Yes, we are weary, and we will keep on keeping on. Let’s astonish the world with service and kindness.