The Christophers: Practice Kindness to Change Lives



Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.,

The Christophers’ Board of Directors

A bit of wisdom from the Old Testament Book of Sirach teaches us, “Kindness is like a garden of blessings.” These words point to the rich rewards that await those who walk in the gentle footsteps of Christ. Our Christopher News Note Practice Kindness to Change Lives details stories of people who reap the rewards of following Christ by practicing kindness.

Shannon K. Evans, author of the book Embracing Weakness, exemplifies how kindness can open doors to understanding and healing. Shannon and her husband Eric adopted a son who acted out due to an early childhood trauma. It was difficult to find a place where they fit in as a family until they started volunteering at a Catholic Worker facility called Day House, which is run by people who serve the poor and homeless in their Iowa community.

In a Christopher Closeup interview, Shannon shared how they found acceptance at Day House because some of the clientele suffered from mental health issues, and so their son’s behavior was simply taken in stride. Shannon said, “Every model of that kind of volunteer work that I had been a part of was all about me giving to others’ needs… [But] here, we all cooked the meal together. We all sat down and ate together, and that was very representative of the spirit of the place, of believing that every human being is created in the image of God. And no matter what their circumstances, they do have something to offer other human beings.”

The kindness Shannon and Eric exhibited in adopting a troubled child created their need to seek out a community of kindness. But finding that community didn’t happen until they made another act of kindness by volunteering to help the poor. And there, among those who suffer and those who serve, they found a community built on kindness, and this helped them to grow and flourish as a family.

Then there’s the story of Eleanor Baker, an elderly woman who was sitting alone eating dinner at Brad’s Bar-B-Que in Oxford, Alabama, when a young man named Jamario Howard approached her. Jamario was waiting on an order with his friends, JaMychol Baker and Tae Knight, when he noticed Eleanor and wondered if she might be lonely. He struck up a conversation with her and learned she was a widow and that the following day would have been her 60th wedding anniversary. At that point, Jamario knew he couldn’t leave Eleanor alone, so he invited her to join him and his friends for dinner, and they had a wonderful evening together. When Jamario posted a photo of them all, it went viral, and CBS News did a story on their moment. Eleanor called it “a God thing,” adding, “I think God sent me there.”

Jamario said, “I used to say when I was younger, and I still say today, I want to change the world somehow, and I don’t know how. I’m not rich. I’m not famous…But we can show the world it’s alright to be kind. And then, before long, maybe the world will be a much better place.”

Jamario, JayMychol, and Tae inspired others through the kindness they showed to Eleanor. What an amazing thing to do – to inspire others with a simple act of kindness. We should all set out to inspire the world in the same way. We’re sure to reap rewards in our own lives and to see a ripple effect that creates a kinder, gentler, and more compassionate society.

For free copies of the Christopher News Note PRACTICE KINDNESS TO CHANGE LIVES, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org