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Kindness, Week 1

Kindness Principle

Titus 3:4-7

Be kind to others because God is kind to you.

Rafe Williams worked in the Tanglewood mayor’s office. He was assistant to the assistant to the Mayor. Or, as he liked to put it, the Assistant Assistant Mayor.

Rafe prided himself on serving the town and its people by going above and beyond the call of duty. Every morning, he arrived in the office early, where he cleaned the coffee maker and brewed a fresh pot. Then, he polished the smudges off the office door until he could see his reflection gleaming in the glass.

But one fine morning, as Rafe adjusted his bowtie in the glass, the door opened and he had to jump aside. Wendy, the new office intern, had also arrived early.

She peered at Rafe and his polishing cloth through her large, cat-eye glasses. “I could do that,” she offered. “Aren’t interns supposed to work overtime and clean stuff and make coffee?”

“Just doing my good deeds for the day!” Rafe said crisply. He pulled up an app on his phone and clicked three check boxes.

“You actually check off the good things you do?” Wendy wondered. “Well, sure,” Rafe told her. “Just to keep track.”

Wendy raised her eyebrows, but didn’t say anything. Rafe unlocked the doors of town hall and took his seat behind the front desk. He smoothed his hair and prepared to meet the citizens of Tanglewood as Wendy filed property deeds nearby.

“Watch and learn!” he instructed.

A line of visitors began to form. The first, Mrs. Magoo, shuffled up. Gray wispy curls bounced over her furrowed brow.

“It’s Peaches!” she wailed.

“We only issue fruit orchard permits on Wednesdays,” Rafe informed her.

“No, Peaches. My cat!” Mrs. Magoo sniffled. “She’s been stuck at the tippy top of the poplar tree since last night.”

Rafe shook his head and tried to wave her aside. “Put out a can of tuna. Next!”

“But you’ve got all those long ladders you use to put up Christmas decorations . . .” Mrs. Magoo protested.

“You’re thinking of the fire department,” said Rafe. “And they only rescue cats in children’s books. Next!”

Wendy had watched the whole exchange in fascination. She tried to catch Rafe’s eye, but he was focused on Mrs. Magoo, who was still trying to hold her ground. “But my Peaches—”

“Is apparently as foolish as her owner!” snapped Rafe. “NEXT.”

Mrs. Magoo wilted under Rafe’s glare. She tottered off as the next person, Lars Van Clever, moved up.

“Just need a permit to hold a block party Saturday night,” said Lars. “Will there be music?” Rafe demanded.

“Well . . . sure,” Lars told him.

“A movie?”

“Maybe . . .”

“Fireworks?”

“Definitely!” exclaimed Lars. “Roman candles, black cats, spinners—”

Wendy grinned at Lars. “That sounds like fun!” she said.

Rafe grimaced. “That sounds like three violations of noise ordinance 157b.862.”

“But it’s going to be a great time for people to get to know each other,” pointed out Lars.

Rafe shook his head. “Denied. Next!”

Lars tried to protest, but Rafe hurried him out and turned to the next person in line, a teenage boy named Jude.

“We’re starting an astronomy club at school,” Jude explained. “And Black Top Hill is the perfect spot for star-gazing.”

“That’s part of Black Top Park,” Rafe pointed out. “It closes at dusk.” “Right,” Jude nodded. “So we need the city to let us go up there after dark.” “What’s the point of a rule if I let you break it?” demanded Rafe.

“We just need one exception,” Jude began. “It’s not like—”

“Get your head out of the stars, silly boy!” Rafe barked. “Next.”

Rafe continued to address the citizens of Tanglewood with ruthless efficiency. At lunch, he offered Wendy a seat at his table in the break room. “Productive morning!” he announced. “What have you learned so far?”

Wendy raised her eyebrows. “Um . . . there are a lot of rules.”

“For the good of all,” Rafe pointed out.

“But, well . . . do you really have to say ‘no’ to everyone?” Wendy asked.

Rafe swallowed a bite of sandwich and sat up straighter in his seat. “The Assistant Assistant Mayor can’t let ordinal violations creep in!”

Wendy considered as she crunched a carrot. “But couldn’t you . . . be nicer about it?”

“Not a single one of them has earned special treatment,” huffed Rafe.

“I don’t think any of us have really earned anything,” Wendy said.

Rafe whipped out his phone and scrolled through his checklist. “Ha! I’m on a 178-day run doing three good deeds a day. Top that!”

Wendy gave him a small smile. “I can’t. I guess I live by a different rule,” she said.

“What’s the ordinance number?” Rafe demanded.

“Ordinance number?”

“I’d like to look it up,” Rafe said. “Your rule.”

“Oh,” said Wendy. “Well, here’s where you can find it.” She scribbled something on a napkin and slid it over.

Rafe read it carefully. “ ‘Titus 3, 4 to 7.’ There’s no Titus in the by-laws,” he began, but quickly realized. “Aha. That’s the Bible, isn’t it? I’ve got one of those at home.”

“That’s great,” Wendy said as she started cleaning up her trash.

Rafe tapped his fingers on the table top. “Oh, just show me the verse,” he asked.

Wendy tugged a tiny New Testament from her bag and riffled pages. “Right there,” she said, pointing.

“But the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,” Rafe read. “He saved us. It wasn’t because of the good things we had done. It was because of his mercy . . .”

He thought for a moment and then said, “That’s an unusual policy.”

“God doesn’t make me earn anything,” explained Wendy. “So it doesn’t seem like anyone else should have to earn my kindness.”

Rafe drummed his fingers on the tabletop again. “When you put it that way . . .” he murmured, voice trailing off.

Wendy tossed her trash in the bin. “Want me to make a fresh pot of coffee for the afternoon?”

“That would be nice, thank you,” Rafe said. “Oh, and could you please make a few phone calls for me?”

“Sure thing,” said Wendy. “What about?”

Rafe considered for a moment. “Tell Mr. Van Clever his block party is approved. And the astronomy club can meet on Black Top. And, um . . . offer my apologies.”

“Don’t you want to call yourself?” suggested Wendy.

“I would,” Rafe agreed. “But I’ve got a cat to get out of a tree.”

Rafe downed the last bite of his sandwich and loosened his bow tie as he pushed back his chair. He’d need to be able to breathe if he was going to climb the extension ladder at Mrs. Magoo’s house.

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Was anyone kind to you today, or this week?

Take a moment to share what they said or did. When someone does something kind, it sticks with you, even if it’s just a smile or giving a spot in line. Kindness makes you feel valued—and you can do the same for others when you take time to be kind. Truth is, though, you can get so busy with your day and wrapped up in your own thoughts that it’s easy to forget to be kind. That’s when we can ask God for His help! See, God chose to be kind by giving us life and forgiving us of the wrong we’ve done, even though we’ve done nothing to deserve His goodness. And since God has been so kind to us, we can pass His kindness on to the people we see each day . . . even if it’s just a smile. Together, ask God to remind you to be kind this week and to help you find creative ways to do it.

Coming Soon

Kindness, Week 2

Ruth and Boaz

Ruth 1&2

Be kind to your family and friends.

A long time ago in a land far, far away lived a woman named Ruth. While Ruth had grown up in Moab, she married a man who had traveled there from Bethlehem when food ran low. Her husband’s family had come too, though his father had since died.

Ruth’s new mother-in-law, Naomi, was happy to welcome her to the family. “Are you sure you’ve had enough to eat?” she always asked. “Try a little more.”

But Ruth’s happily-ever-after quickly fell apart. In a short time, her brother-in-law died, and then so did her own husband. While Ruth, at least, was living near her own friends and family, she must have worried about Naomi, who had lost both her husband and her two sons.

“She’s all alone!” Ruth exclaimed to her sister-in-law, Orpah. “She’s got no family here but us.”

“Naomi’s made of sturdy stuff,” Orpah said, shrugging. “She’ll pull through.”

But Naomi could find no peace in Moab. “God’s given food to His people in Bethlehem again. I’m going back home,” she announced.

“Then we’re going with you!” Ruth declared. “Wait right there. We’ll be packed in a jiffy.”

Ruth and Orpah joined Naomi as she began her long journey. But before they even made it out of town, Naomi stopped.

“Both of you go back,” she told them. “You were kind to your husbands, who have died. You have also been kind to me. So may the Lord be just as kind to you.”

Orpah nodded. She kissed her mother-in-law and left. But Ruth wouldn’t budge.

“Look at your sister-in-law,” Naomi said, waving in the direction of town. “She’s going back home to find a good Moabite boy. You go too.”

“Don’t try to make me leave you and go back,” said Ruth. “Where you go I’ll go. Where you stay I’ll stay. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.”

“You’re not gonna listen to me, are you?” Naomi sighed. But she hid a tiny smile.

Ruth followed her mother-in-law every step of the way, helping her over the rough spots and working hard to set up their home in Bethlehem.

Naomi’s old friends and relatives were shocked to see the deep lines of grief in her face.

“How can this be Naomi?” cried one.

“She really ought to do something with her hair,” said another.

“Don’t call me Naomi,” Ruth’s mother-in-law declared. “Call me Mara. [God] has made my life very bitter.”

Ruth refused to play along. “You’ll feel better when you’ve had something to eat. Let me go out to the fields and pick up the leftover barley,” she said.

Bright and early the next morning, Ruth went out to follow the workers cutting grain, so she could collect the leftovers. The field was owned by a man named Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s husband.

When Boaz arrived, he questioned the foreman to discover who Ruth was. Then he caught up with her at the edge of the field. “Don’t go anywhere else to pick up grain,” Boaz told Ruth. “I’ve made sure no one will bother you. When you get thirsty, please help yourself to the water jars.”

Ruth was stunned to receive such treatment from an important man like Boaz. She bowed low. “Why are you being so kind to me?” she asked. “I’m from another country.”

“I’ve heard about everything you’ve done for your mother-in-law,” explained Boaz. “May the Lord reward you.”

At lunchtime, Boaz offered Ruth a meal. He even made sure his workers left extra grain behind for her to gather. So when Ruth carried home all the barley she’d picked up, her mother-in-law was surprised.

“God bless the person who helped you!” exclaimed Naomi.

Ruth continued to gather grain in Boaz’s fields until the end of the harvest. “My daughter,” Naomi began. “You’ve worked so hard. We need to find you a good home, a good Jewish boy to provide for you. So go to Boaz and do just as I tell you.”

Boaz and the workers were busy at the threshing floor that evening, beating the sheaves to separate the grain from the straw. The hard work was followed up with plenty of good food. Weary from the day’s work, Boaz lay down near the huge pile of grain and slept.

Some time later, Ruth approached and twitched aside the blanket that lay over Boaz’ feet—just as Naomi had instructed. Then she lay down herself.

Boaz was startled when he awoke. Rubbing his eyes, he tried to make out the figure lying there in the moonlight. “Who is it?” he whispered loudly.

Ruth sat up quickly. “It’s me, Ruth. You are my family protector,” she explained. “So please . . . take care of me.”

“May the Lord bless you,” Boaz replied. “Don’t be afraid. I’ll do . . . everything you ask.”

Before Ruth left in the morning, Boaz gave her some of the newly threshed grain to take home to Naomi. The Jewish law required Boaz to check with another man, a closer relative, before he could fulfill his promise to Ruth.

“I’d like to buy the land that belonged to Naomi’s husband,” Boaz said. “And marry Ruth, too.” The closer relative quickly agreed, and soon after, Boaz and Ruth were married.

Naomi was delighted. “I just knew you’d find a good Jewish boy!” she exclaimed. “Now I could do with a grandchild, too.”

Within a short time, God gave Ruth and Boaz a baby boy. Everyone in town clustered around to meet Naomi’s new grandbaby, Obed.

One of Naomi’s friends exclaimed, “Naomi, [Ruth] is better to you than seven sons!”

Ruth and Boaz smiled at Naomi as she cradled the tiny child in her arms. Through the kindness of Ruth and of Boaz, Naomi’s bitter heart had become soft again, and she continued to care for her brand-new grandson with great joy.

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Share with each other something kind you did today (or this week) for someone in your family or a close friend.

Was it easy to remember—or difficult to think of? Truth is, we all know that we should be kind to the people we’re close to. But it’s the people we spend the most time with—like family and friends—that we also get annoyed with, too! And when you’re going through a tough time, it’s easy to take it out on them. This week, think about Ruth; when things got tough, instead of getting angry at Naomi, she chose to treat her with kindness. And it changed everything! Pray for each other, that instead of getting frustrated with your family or close friends, you’ll choose kindness.

Coming Soon

Kindness, Week 3

The Lease of These

Matthew 25:35-40

Be kind to people who are overlooked.

Mariana zipped up her coat and wrapped her scarf three times around her neck as she peered outside at the icy sidewalk.

“I can’t believe they didn’t cancel school!” she grumbled. “At least I’ve got a reason to wear my new boots.” Mariana carefully pulled them on: deep purple with shiny silver buckles.

“Don’t forget—you’ll need to take the bus this afternoon,” her mother said, searching for car keys.

Mariana looked up quickly, frowning. “The bus always smells like feet,” she groaned. “Why can’t you pick me up?”

“I’ll be at the shelter,” her mom reminded her. “They need extra volunteers with the cold and so many people coming in.”

“Great,” muttered Mariana. “Help everyone else but me.”

Her mom just raised an eyebrow and pointed to the small, framed poster near the door. It had been there as long as Mariana could remember.

“Yeah, okay, I know what is says,” she admitted.

“Read it anyhow,” her mom prompted.

Mariana stepped closer to scan the words one more time, a Bible passage from Matthew. ‘I was hungry. And you gave me something to eat,’ she read. ‘I was thirsty. And you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger. And you invited me in. I needed clothes. And you gave them to me. . . . Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

She glanced back up at her mother, who was waiting. “I get it,” Mariana pointed out. “It’s Jesus talking. Helping people at the shelter is like helping Him.”

Mariana knew the work her mother did to help homeless families was important. But sometimes it just seemed to get in the way. Sighing, she shoved open the door and stepped into the icy wind.

At school, Mariana shrugged off her coat. Her friend Felicity nudged her and pointed. “Who’s that?” she asked.

The seats were still empty, except for a tall, dark-skinned girl with close-cropped curly hair. She clutched her coat around her; it hung to her knees, but her feet were nearly bare in sandals.

“Who wears sandals in the snow?” wondered Mariana. “Pretty sure that’s a guy’s coat,” added Felicity.

No one was talking with the girl. Mariana wondered if she should go over, but as she took a step, the bell rang. Everyone dashed for their seats. Mr. Heisman, their teacher, gestured to the new girl as he sorted through test papers.

“This is Adama,” he told them. “She comes from the Congo in central Africa.”

The girl managed a tiny smile, but Mariana could tell all the curious stares made her nervous. “I want you to make her feel welcome,” Mr. Heisman instructed. “Now let’s take alookatyourmathtests…”

Adama didn’t say a word all morning. At lunchtime, she sat by herself, pulling a single container from a plastic grocery bag. Mariana watched from the table where she sat with Felicity and her other friends.

“I wonder what she’s eating . . .” Mariana began.

Felicity wrinkled her nose. “Whatever it is, I can smell it over here!”

Mariana giggled and made a face, but she could almost hear a tiny voice in her head prompting—

“How would you feel sitting all alone in a new place?”

“I bet it’s what everyone eats where she’s from,” Mariana suggested.

Mariana had almost made up her mind to take her tray and sit by Adama when once again, the bell rang, this time to signal the end of lunch. With a mix of guilt and relief, she jumped up and headed with the rest of the class to the gym.

The PE teacher, Ms. Marks, shooed everyone toward the locker rooms. “Four minutes!” she barked.

“I want you all dressed out for volleyball.” Then she turned to Adama, standing uncertain on the sideline. “Adama, right? . . . If you didn’t bring gym clothes, just take the bench, okay?”

Minutes later, Ms. Marks herded everyone onto the court and lined them up. “Let’s see you serve and return,” she said and waved toward Mariana and Felicity. “Girls, you’re up.”

As Mariana took her place, she noted Adama on the bench, looking a bit lost. She

was distracted enough to miss Felicity’s serve, glancing up just in time to see the ball hurtling her way. Mariana jumped as the ball skirted by her, but she rolled her ankle as she landed.

“Ouch!” she exclaimed, wincing.

Ms. Marks hurried over and quickly checked her ankle. “You okay? “Yeah, I’m fine,” Mariana said. “It’s just sore.”

“Sit out for a minute. See how it feels,” instructed Ms. Marks.

Mariana limped toward the bench as the rest of the class continued. She sat down a few feet from Adama and was surprised when the new girl spoke.

“Your ankle. It is hurt?” asked Adama.

“Um, not bad. It’ll be okay,” Mariana said. Then after a moment she added, “I’m Mariana.”

“I heard the other girls say it,” Adama told her. “That is a pretty name.” “So is yours,” said Mariana. “Adama. It’s different.”

The new girl cracked a small smile. “Not where I’m from,” she said. “What was it like?” Mariana wondered. “Your home?”

“Very beautiful,” said Adama. “But . . . we had to leave when I was very young. My family, we were in a camp until we came here. Last week.”

“Oh,” said Mariana. She tried to imagine what it would be like to have no real home. To live all the time in a tent or one room with your whole family.

She glanced down at Adama’s sandals and couldn’t help asking, “Is that why . . . ? Your shoes . . .”

Adama looked away. “The agency did not have shoes in my size.”

Mariana’s eyes shifted to her own well-worn gym sneakers. She thought of her spiffy new boots, and her mind jumped to the words she’d read that morning:

‘Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Mariana took a deep breath. “I’ve got a pair of boots in my locker you could have. Brand-new. I bet we’re the same size.”

“Oh, no!” protested Adama. “I couldn’t take—”

“Please do! They’re perfect for the snow,” said Mariana.

“Well, I . . . thank you,” Adama said at last. Mariana grinned, and Adama slowly smiled back.

When the girls changed after class, Felicity raised her eyebrows as she took a look at Mariana. “Sneakers with a skirt?” she asked. “That’s kinda weird. What happened to your boots?”

“I have an old pair at home,” Mariana said quickly. “Hey, you should talk to Adama. She’s really cool.”

Mariana knew she wouldn’t be able to get new boots again this year. But it was totally worth it to know Adama wasn’t getting cold feet as she tried to adjust to a new home.

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What do you think it means to be “overlooked”?

Take a moment and discuss it with each other. Then, share with each other some of the people you know or see who might be overlooked. They might be at your school, your church, in your neighborhood, someone you pass on the street, or see at the grocery store. The truth is, these overlooked people are every bit as valuable as the people you know who seem to have it all and get lots of attention. When you’re kind to someone who’s often overlooked, you show them just how truly valuable they are—both to God and to others. Together, brainstorm at least one thing you can do this week to be kind to someone who’s overlooked. Together, ask God to help you follow through and give you eyes to see people who are hurting or ignored by others.

Coming Soon

Kindness, Week 4

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-48

Be kind to people who aren't kind to you.

Sam Tran liked everything about the building his family lived in from the tall, leafy oak tree just outside his window to the community garden on the roof.

He liked everything, that is, except for his neighbor, Mr. Angston, who didn’t seem to like anything—especially not Sam’s favorite hip-hop music. But instead of asking Sam to turn it down, Mr. Angston just turned his own classical music up—louder and louder and louder until Bach harpsichord notes seemed to pound through the walls.

Anytime Sam’s mom cooked curry, Mr. Angston would respond by spraying a whole bottle of Febreze in the hall outside their door.

And one day, when Sam propped the hall door open so he could bring up a load of groceries for his mom, Mr. Angston shut and locked it in the two minutes it took Sam to fetch them from the car.

“Seriously?” Sam groaned. He gritted his teeth as he faced the locked door and tried to shift the heavy bags in both hands. Through the window, he saw Mr. Angston’s bald head disappear back inside his door.

The bags dug into Sam’s hands, but there was nowhere to place them at the top of the narrow stairs. He was just about to drop them when he heard footsteps and someone called out, “Hold your horses, I got it!”

Tia Lakely, the chipper dog walker who lived at the end of the hall, darted past him with a golden doodle on the leash and opened the door.

“Thank you!” Sam gasped. He staggered through the door and dropped the groceries in front of his own apartment.

Tia shook her head. “Weird. Hall door’s never locked . . .”

Sam scratched the dog’s head. “I had it propped open, but while I was outside, Mr. Angston . . .”

He trailed off. They both turned to stare at Mr. Angston’s door, blank except for the number 205. A dead geranium sat in a plastic pot right beside it.

Tia sighed. “Ah. Of course, he shut it.”

“He never even says anything!” Sam exploded. “Just does mean stuff and disappears.” “Never seen him have company,” mused Tia.

“He makes me so mad,” Sam sputtered. “I’m ready to glue his mailbox shut. Or slip a snake under his door or something.”

The golden doodle barked, and Tia pushed him down to a sit. “I get it, Sam. Mr. Angston probably does deserve a snake in his slippers. But you really think that would help?”

“It would sure make me feel better!” Sam huffed.

“Maybe,” admitted Tia. “But you start with a snake and then he sneaks a skunk in your place and you fire back and we end up with a water buffalo in the hall or something.”

“You got a better idea?” Sam asked.

“Than a water buffalo?”

“No! What to do about Mr. Crabby Angston.”

Tia considered a moment. “Well . . . something nice, maybe,” she suggested. “You gotta turn things upside down. Love your enemies and all that.”

“Hold it, what?” Sam gaped at her.

“It’s a Jesus thing,” Tia said, “He tells people, ‘Love your enemies [and] pray for those who hurt you.’”

“And that’ll make the ogre of #205 magically better, will it?” asked Sam, skeptical. Tia shrugged. “Maybe not. But I bet it’ll change you.”

Sam shook his head and lugged the groceries inside, where his mom was making dinner. What Tia had suggested was crazy, but he couldn’t get it out of his mind.

Finally he asked his mom, “Do we still have any of those cinnamon ginger cookies you made?”

“There’s an extra dozen in the pantry,” she told him, pointing. “Why?” “I thought maybe Mr. Angston would like them,” Sam said.

His mom’s eyebrows both popped up, but she smiled. “I’ve got a tin you can put them in,” she said.

A short time later, Sam left the cookies outside Mr. Angston’s door.

That evening, he climbed up to the roof garden and checked out the herb bed he’d helped his dad plant and weed. Carefully, he transplanted some of the biggest, happiest basil and spearmint plants into a large terra cotta pot. Then he lugged it down three flights of stairs and replaced Mr. Angston’s dead geranium with the perky herbs.

The next day at the dollar store, Sam noticed a bin full of classical music CDs. He found one featuring Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. “I bet Mr. Angston plays CDs!” he decided. So he bought the disc and snuck it into Mr. Angston’s mailbox.

As Sam climbed the stairs later, he realized he wasn’t as tense as usual. Instead of bracing himself for what Mr. Angston might do next, he found himself imagining more creative—and sneaky—ways to do something nice for his neighbor.

When Sam opened the stair door and stepped into the hallway, he could hear classical music drifting from Mr. Angston’s apartment. “Hey!” Sam exclaimed. “He’s playing that CD!”

As he approached Mr. Angston’s door, he noticed a few sprigs of the spearmint in the planter had been picked. Just as he passed, the door creaked open and Mr. Angston peered out. He waved a plastic CD case, glowering.

“Boy! You know anything about this?” he demanded. Sam stepped back. “I . . . well, I could tell you like Bach.”

Mr. Angston frowned. “Your mama bake those cookies?” “Yeah…”

Mr. Angston disappeared for a moment and popped back out, holding the tin. He handed it to Sam.

“Here,” he barked, and turned back inside. Right before Mr. Angston shut the door, though, Sam thought he saw the hint of a smile. Shaking his head, he opened the tin. The cookies were gone— replaced by three plastic-wrapped Twinkies.

Sam grinned. Maybe it wasn’t much, but coming from Mr. Angston, three Twinkies seemed like a small miracle.

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Let’s be honest—it’s usually not hard to be kind to the people who are kind to you.

Someone smiles, you smile back. They get you a nice birthday present, you give one on their birthday. But it comes a lot less naturally to be kind to people who aren’t kind to you in the first place. Share with each other if there is someone in your life who is often unkind (to you or to others). How do you think that person/those people might respond if you did something kind for them? Together, brainstorm some ways that you could show kindness to someone who is unkind, and pick one to do this week. Together, ask God to help you have the courage and creativity to be kind to those who aren’t kind to you.