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Weeds: Be kind. Give more. Stay humble.

It’s always tricky to begin one of these. I have to pick a point in time and go. That is in the world we know. Now, in a world that turns upside-down every day, it’s harder to choose a starting point.

My usual story ideas seem small in the tidal wave of news. Farming, my town, baseball were important and will be again, soon we hope. There is nothing I can add about the virus creeping around the globe. There are enough experts and self-proclaimed “experts.” When the best comparison for this experience is 1918, we’re all struggling with what to do and how to feel.

A piece of good news: the sun will continue its tilt to our side of the planet. Spring is here. Soon blessed and welcome green will appear. As I write, though, it is one of those dreary days where winter’s hold on things seems strong. Rainy snow or snowy rain is falling.

Next to me on the desk is a splash of bright orange. It is one of those rubber bracelets with a message printed on it. I keep it in my drawer that has everything: wallet, keys, baseball cards, opener, cut-out articles. Pam would like me to clean it out; I think it’s an apt reflection of my jumbled mind.

Every so often I take the orange bracelet out. On it are these words, “Be kind. Give more. Stay humble.” Folks from Sleepy Eye might recognize them. They are from Tyler Hadley, one of four young men tragically killed in an icy crash west of town six years ago this month.

Tyler and his mom Deb came up with that phrase when they were brainstorming a slogan for a benefit to honor Tyler’s sister Kaylie. Kaylie died in 2013 of an epileptic seizure, cutting short a gifted teaching career. “Kind, more, and humble” matched Kaylie’s initials KMH, a nice fitting.

Tragedy upon a tragedy, the words came to be used for several 5K charity runs to honor Kaylie, Tyler and the other men who died: John, Payton, and Caleb. I took part in those and have t-shirts and the bracelet from then. Those of us who lived through that were seared emotionally and forever. To have that many young people with luminous futures ripped from a community was nearly unbearable.

Mixed with the sadness are memories of people coming together to support and lift each other. Those are good to recall at this time when we may be in for adversity. If we could unite for good here in this little town compelled by tragedy, we can maybe do that on a larger scale.

Be kind. Give more. Stay humble. Six simple words. I like the simplicity. I often read and try to follow complicated and lengthy writings. I enjoy those, even as I get lost in them sometimes. But every so often, simple is good.

Be kind. Any time I get off the farm and out among people, I see small kindnesses in stores or in lines or on the sidewalk. There is much goodness, as I notice folks hold a door or offer an encouraging word. Being a small-towner, I attend a lot of wakes, and it is heartening as visitors console and share memories with the grieving family. That always seems to bring out good.

It can almost lead one to believe that kindness is our natural state. Were it so? I need look no further than myself to see days I am grumpy, short, and judgmental. The constant in these moments is selfishness. Concerned about my needs and desires, it becomes easy to abandon kindness as not essential. I might take that out on Pam or somebody waiting on me at a store in town.

Then we have the constant flow of words on traditional media and newer social media. I think we’re all astounded how mean people can be in comments when anonymously posting. Unfortunately, that seems to bleed over into actual human contact. How awful is it to watch two people yell through and at each other on some video clip? There is no consensus on how we got to this very unkind state of discourse on a national level. The tweeting president is to blame. Or the people who hate the president are to blame.

The only thing we know for sure is that each of us can be kind as many minutes of the day as we possibly can, and that is fully in our control. We can be assured the Lord will be on our side when we are speaking and acting out of love. Whether that drifts out into the larger world and softens it, we won’t know. But we can try.

Give more. This one is tricky. There are people I know who already do so much. With apologies to my gender, I have to say I have in mind a set of “mature” women who are always doing something for others. They are sort of a glue that holds a small town together. I’m not sure we could ask them to do more.

But the rest of us? Yeah, probably. A couple minutes more a day for my wife, an evening to help a neighbor with a project, volunteering when I don’t feel like it and want to make some excuse. I could give more.

Stay humble. Finally, in the words Tyler chose, is this admonition. It almost seems unfair. We’re being kind, we’re giving more, and we’re supposed to be humble about it, too?

I’m struck how often in the Bible we are warned of pride. Some of these cautions are almost 3,000 years old. So we see this has been a constant for humanity. In Proverbs, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

A while back, I wrote about the temptation to feel we are better than another person or group. To stay humble, we need only remember that each one of these fellow travelers on Earth is also a child of God, a sacred creation by the Creator. From the poorest refugee living in the most dire conditions in a third world slum, to the ultra-rich CEO of a giant corporation, each is from the same God.

We needn’t feel less though. We are each of us gifted the same birthright. With proper humility comes proper pride, and peace in the balance.

I will continue to get my orange bracelet out from time to time. Be kind. Give more. Stay humble. Six simple words. Thanks Tyler.

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