The COVID-19 pandemic and all its mutant variants have added new stressors, fears and concerns to the daily lives of people around the world.
Today, we need to exercise more patience, tolerance and understanding in our interactions with others. Too many are quick-triggered to react and defend themselves. The behaviors of naming, shaming and blaming — especially on social media — have become vitriol and contemptuous.
Within the last 30 days, our community has been experiencing random and sometimes not-so-random acts of violence against humanity. While the calls for the violence to cease seem to have fallen upon deaf ears, we must continue to promote by example efforts of peace and reconciliation.
However, we cannot wait for ideal circumstances or optimal situations to pursue peace. The late Rev. William Nixon, the founding pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church on Youngstown’s eastside often would say, “It’s just nice to be nice!” It costs nothing to offer a generous smile — even behind a KN95 face mask — or a genuine compliment or a word of encouragement.
Wintley Phipps’ rendition "If I Can Help Somebody" is a constant reminder to me personally to make a difference daily. Mother Theresa once observed, “There are no great acts, only small acts done with great love.” I have been amazed by the demonstrative display of love by several people of faith. I have witnessed their deeds being congruent to their creed.
The late Anne Herbert, author of "Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty," encourages the intentional practice of showing unexpected acts of kindness. I want to embolden you to be someone's example of kindness and compassion! I shared my practice of maintaining several Blessing Bags in my car in case I encounter someone in need. I have several gallon-size freezer bags filled with items from the dollar store such as gloves, socks, snacks, masks, crackers, candy bars, toothpaste, toothbrush, wipes, deodorant, snacks and other items that may help someone who is homeless or in a bad way.
Those samples from our frequent hotel stays come in handy as well. I enclose a pamphlet of local resources, the Daily Bread daily devotional booklet and a short message of inspiration. My wife does a similar ministry with her collection of purses which are filled with feminine products. These are just thoughtful, helpful and hopeful things to do.
Avoid the internal mental chatter of how the person may have arrived at the point of need. That’s not our business; consider it an opportunity to be a blessing! I am convinced that angels have been entertained as strangers. Terry Vicars, a dear friend and community advocate, summed it up pretty well, “Want to help make the world a better place, stop demonizing others and instead just lift up the ones you believe in! Let’s be there for one another. Let’s wrap our arms around the judged and outcasts the way Jesus of Nazareth did.”
In the Mote and the Beam parable, Jesus offers the challenge to “take the log out of your own eye first” within His Sermon on the Mount contained in the Gospel of Matthew 7:1-5. The discourse, while fairly brief, starts with a warning to His followers of the dangers of judging others, stating that they, too, would be judged by the same standard.
We spend more time analyzing, discussing/debating and critiquing how or why someone is experiencing matters such as chronic unemployment, addictions of all types, poverty, depression, homelessness more so than offering immediate, if only temporary relief, for the current situation. Choose to be a blessing when encountering someone carrying a burden,
As I was finishing this week’s collection of thoughts, I was arrested in the process of listening to the newscast. Featured was an initiative that promoted random acts of kindness for 21 days. The effort was championed by Wheeling, W.V. native Cynthia Germanotta and her daughter, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.
Her daughter is more widely known as Lady Gaga.
The women are encouraging interested persons to pledge and practice kindness toward themselves and others. The 21 Days of Kindness concept is simple; it usually takes the consistency of 21days to create a habit. The habit of extending kindness, prayerfully, will evolve into a regular behavior of thoughtfulness toward others.
Self-care, especially in the midst of a pandemic, is critical for everyone. Let’s be honest, we can be very hard on ourselves. Today, lighten up and be kinder to yourself. You are also encouraged to deliberately engage in acts of kindness to bless others. The random acts of kindness can be direct actions such as paying for the coffee of an unknown person or advocating for a righteous cause. In each case, the goal is to make kindness an intentional habit.
Fires, floods and other forces
Please pray and support the efforts of communities reeling from the catastrophic damage of Hurricane Ida’s furry or the massive forest fires of the West Coast. The mounting loss of lives and devastation spawned by Ida’s wrath is heart-wrenching. Many have lost their life’s accumulation of furnishing while clinging onto hope. It is my petition that God restores them all with a greater portion. Isaiah 43:2 declares, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Passing the peace
TODAY: The United Pastors, Clergy and Community Leaders Against the Violence are organizing a car caravan to continue to the message and prayers out to the neighborhoods of the South Side from 2-3 p.m.
Participants will gather at New Bethel Baptist Church at 1:30 p.m. for prayer and to place signs to carry the message “Stop the Violence” on our vehicles. The route will cover several of the neighborhoods where the recent violent episodes have occurred. Members of valley churches, civic and social organizations along with the area residents are encouraged to participate.
Saving the Soul of Youngstown
There will be an outdoor revival and evangelistic tent meeting Sept. 28-30 on the corners of Hillman and Warren Avenues. Themed, "Saving the Soul of Youngstown," the effort is being shepherded by Pastor Mark Jackson of the Light Church, Pastor Michael Harrison of Union Baptist and Bishop Kenneth Paramore of the Christ Centered Church.
Paul writings in I Timothy 2:4-6 is the underpinning of the effort who asserted, “God who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the Truth. There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.”
The nightly services will begin at 6:30 p.m. Due to the intent of creating transparent and authentic encounters with God, especially among young men, the media has been respectfully requested not to provide coverage during the actual services.
Men’s Rally in the Valley
The upcoming Men’s Rally in the Valley will be at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown on Oct. 9. The doors open at 7 a.m. and the rally runs until about 4 p.m. There will be resource tables of community services on site. Bing Newton, the visionary of the rally, remains deeply passionate in his efforts to bring diverse voices to the Valley.
The rally has hosted controversial personalities such as Michael Vick, former NFL quarterback; Phil Robinson, "Duck Dynasty" reality star’ and most recently the CEO of My Pillow, Mike Lindell. Admission to the rally is free and there will be an afternoon concert featuring Sidewalk Prophets. For more information visit www.mensrally.org.
Lest we forget 9/11
As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, may it be more than just an occasion for remembrance. As a nation, we lost so much and continue to shed tears for so many. We honor the memory of all who perished as well as the courage and selflessness of the first responders who risked their own lives without hesitancy.
The dastardly terrorist attacks on 9/11 are forever seared in the minds of persons impacted that day. Nineteen men commandeered four fuel-loaded American commercial airplanes with East Coast destinations for an evil agenda. We cannot forget these aircrafts which crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. and in an open field Shanksville, Pa.
The attacks took the lives of nearly 3,000 people and injured thousands more. Even today, many first responders continue to deal with adverse effects both physically and emotionally from working in toxic conditions.
I vividly recall the media reports of the final call of Todd Beamer from United Flight 93 whom calmly and decisively said, “Let’s roll!” May this year be an opportunity to meaningfully recognize the memories and lives of those, such as the passengers with Todd, who bravely faced death not as an enemy.
A blessing to the reader
May God continue to provide for all of your needs and give consideration to most your wants. May He touch your life with joy and contentment despite challenge and opposition. May God fill your days with peace and hope. May He bless your heart with love and grace. May God ease your soul with gladness and grant you good health, lasting comfort and relief from the burdens of life as you contend to keep the faith.
— The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II serves as the lead pastor of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain for the Youngstown Police Department, president of the Baptist Pastors Council and the local coordinator for the African American Male Wellness Walk of the Mahoning Valley. He resides in Youngstown with Dorothy, his partner in marriage and ministry. They share the love and joy of six children and seven grandchildren and their mischievous canine, Sir Winston.
— All biblical citations are New Living Translation unless noted otherwise.