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Kindness - essential medicine for a pandemic

Andy Bryant believes that, amidst all the advice being given about coping with the current pandemic, there is one element which can easily get forgotten.

There are many responses to a pandemic.  We think of the medical response, the quality of nursing care and the longed-for vaccine.  Then come the measures necessary to contain and control the virus: social distancing, hand washing and face coverings.  And with the economic challenges we have become used to the concepts of furlough, rental holidays and Eat out to Help out.
But living through a pandemic is also a spiritual challenge.  Journeying through uncertain and challenging times asks deep questions about who we are as individuals and how we will be as friends and neighbours.  The word that seems to me to be so important, as we go through these uncharted waters, is kindness.
Talking about kindness can appear rather ‘soft’, even glib, rather ephemeral as a response to a global crisis.  Yet the truth is that receiving kindness is vital to our well-being and offering kindness is essential to the health of relationships.  The kinder we can be, the better we will cope walking into an unknown future.
Many churches have been trying to show kindness with shopping for those shielding, delivering parcels of food, cooking meals and gifting them to key workers.  But how far have we allowed that kindness to infect the whole of our lives?
It is remarkable how quickly judgement smothers kindness. It is there in our reaction to people who don’t wear masks when we think they should or who don’t keep social distance or wash their hands.  It is there in our attitude to those we think are too “preachy” about face coverings, social distancing, and hand sanitising. 
It is there in the way churches talk about one another, whether that be those who have been too quick or too slow to re-open.  It is there in our reaction to the way that shop, office, pub, café is / is not operating.  And as ever we think it is open season to criticise politicians and others in leadership or offering guidance.
In our own anxiety about these present times we can lose sight of kindness.  The truth is that none of us has lived through times like this before; all of us in some way are struggling.  Each of us has our own complicated backstory that colours how we are reacting. 
In uncertain times we need to be slower to judge and quicker to understand.  As we seek to give meaning to Jesus’ great commandment that we should love one another, is not kindness one of its most important fruits?

The above image is by klimkin from pixabay.com 

This article has also appeared in Good News for Norfolk - the free Christian newspaper distributed widely across the county. 

Andrew BryantCFThe Revd Andrew Bryant is the Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care at Norwich Cathedral. He was previously Team Rector of Portishead, Bristol, in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, and has served in parishes in the Guildford and Lichfield Dioceses, as well as working for twelve years with Kaleidoscope Theatre, a charity promoting integration through theatre for young adults with Down’s Syndrome.
You can read Andrew's latest blog entry
here and can follow him via his Twitter account @AndyBry3.

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