Glen Campbell Had it Right!

David Burchett
David Burchett

Even in my rock and roll days I liked Glen Campbell. There was something about his smile and warmth that made him seem real. Glen seemed like the kind of person you could approach and he would be kind. You never know with celebrities so I was delighted to hear from sound technicians who worked with him that he was exactly that. Kind and approachable. His final gift before his death was a moving and deeply personal look at how Alzheimer’s affects a family in the documentary “I’ll Be Me”. 

So that background makes this week’s musing even more impactful.

Glen Campbell

One of my favorite Glen Campbell songs, “Try a Little Kindness”, is a message that we desperately need to hear and heed in our current societal climate.

You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

Boy howdy do we have some narrow minded people loudly making their presence felt. People so narrow minded they could look through a peephole with both eyes. The lyrics of Try a Little Kindness seem like a simple and even naive sentiment. I would argue this little chorus is one of the most important and doable things that we as followers of Jesus can do to shine a little light. And we have been given that assignment by our Lord.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NLT)

I wrote a chapter about the power of kindness in my new book, Waking Up Slowly. Here is a brief portion of that chapter.

The amazing thing about God’s grace is that He is not a God of a second chance. He is a God of chance after chance after chance ad infinitum. We are never outside God’s redeeming grace, no matter how much or how often we blow it.

How is that even possible? We write off people after one or two offenses. How can God keep forgiving us after count- less offenses? It doesn’t make sense. That is because grace does not make sense in our accounting system. So how does that work in our relationships with our community? The apostle Paul pulls it all together perfectly in his letter to the church in Ephesus:

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32, NLT)

Kindness should be contagious because the God of the universe has been kind to us. That is part and parcel of the love story of the gospel.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Romans 2:4, NLT)

I used to be impressed by talent and prestige. Now I find that I am more impressed by kindness. Billy Graham observed how we all—especially children—benefit from a little kindness: “Often the only thing a child can remember about an adult in later years, when he or she is grown, is whether or not that person was kind.” I find that to be so true when I run down the list of adults from my childhood. I filter them by that very trait. They were either kind or unkind.

My memories from high school have changed too. I once sorted classmates by prettiness and athletic ability. Now I sort my high school acquaintances by kindness. All the things that identified us in high school are meaningless now. Who cares if you were a cheerleader, quarterback, National Merit scholar, or the kid trying to find someone to sit with at lunch? What matters is whether you were kind and considerate of others. I spent my high school years walking a tightrope, trying to be part of the “in” group, while trying to live out my newfound faith in Jesus. If I failed to be kind in that awkward dance, I am truly sorry.

Paul recognized the importance of this contagious gift in his instructions to the church at Colossae:

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15, NLT)

I have often said that if the church lived according to those four verses alone, there would be a spiritual awakening in the land. If we simply loved one another in the body of Christ, we could spark a revival. That is my job as a follower of Christ.

Frederick Buechner captured the idea brilliantly: “If you want to be holy, be kind.”

(Excerpted from Waking Up Slowly with permission of Tyndale Publishing)

Today I remember Glen Campbell by determining to follow his advice.

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way

Everyone of us can be kind. Give it a try.

One act of kindness would be to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association to help find a cure for this cruel disease.

Originally published August 15, 2017.