Maureen Pratt

As Valentine’s Day approaches, so too does more awareness of love and how we express it to the diverse people in our lives. From an awesome agape-centered “I love you” lived out in actions toward a stranger to the “I love you” deep with years of togetherness shared by spouses, bringing God’s kindness to the world is one of the most wonderful actions we engage in and central to our Christian faith.

But sometimes kindness can be mistaken for condescension or a clumsy power play or prejudice. Or, our own “baggage” can make for heavy lifting when it comes to giving or receiving kindness from someone else.

A remembered scene from high school illustrates what I mean:

The school’s band director, male, and a female student were walking ahead of me toward a closed door. As we approached it, the band director grabbed the handle and swung the door open, then stepped aside to let the student and me pass through.

I saw this as a courteous gesture, but the other student saw it as something quite different. She stopped, turned to him and said, “Oh, you’re just doing this because you’re a man, aren’t you? Well, I can open my own door.”

She turned away and went through the open doorway, leaving the band director looking quite surprised (and still holding the door handle). As I walked through, I looked at him and said, “Thank you,” but I suspect my gratitude didn’t quite make up for my fellow student’s reaction. I still wonder if the band director ever dared to hold the door for someone else.

Since that episode, I’ve seen others where the presence of a closed (or closing) door poses potentials for love and kindness and/or the opposite.

An elevator bank, with multiple possibilities of going up and down floors, can be tempting to those of us who are in a hurry.

We’ve maybe (probably) been in the situation where the doors to a car are closing just as someone else rushes toward it, hoping to catch the same car rather than wait for another. In those fleeting moments, do we think, “Oh, well, he/she will catch another soon enough,” or, “Where’s the ‘door open’ button … ah! There it is.”

Someone carrying a heavy load might obviously signal to us that our help in holding doors or otherwise navigating with the bundle might be welcome.

But the physical presence of weight doesn’t have to be visible for us to be kind, patient and lend a hand; so many of the burdens that weigh people down cannot be seen, but are profoundly felt.

A door doesn’t have to be physical to be an impediment that we can help remove so someone else’s life can be a little easier, a little more hope-filled.

Job seekers or those working through various maze-like situations in health care, education or troubled relationships can benefit from the access we might be able to provide through our giving of time, counsel or other assistance, thus opening doors to opportunities, growth and strength.

Pain from past hurts, trauma that festers can surely affect the ease with which the door to our heart opens, especially if our kind actions seem to be met with resistance or hostility. In those times we may wonder, “Is it worth it to try again?” Or, “Should I just save myself the extra trouble?”

A quick glimpse back to the miracle of Christmas we have just enjoyed, or forward to Lent and Easter upcoming can steady us: Love matters beyond roses, lace hearts and store advertisements. Love brings Christ’s light to all!

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Pratt’s website is www.maureenpratt.com.