be brave (kind, too)

One of the Intramuralist’s primary aims is to focus on that which is good and right and true; life isn’t long enough to invest in the unhealthy. With the flip of the calendar, I’ve noticed several longtime friends encouraging the same, inspired by a recent segment on CBS News Sunday Morning.

“Think kindness,” said the segment’s initial promo. Host Jane Pauley then begins by asking, “When was the last time you even thought about kindness?”

In the current cultural state in which we are often known more for what we are against rather than what we are actually for, what if we were, so-to-speak, for kindness?

Would that not be a welcome change?

Said one-on-the-receiving-end on CBS, “Someone did something for us that we did not expect them to do.” That lack of expectation is what makes kindness so special. It intrinsically prompts genuine joy, humility, and thanksgiving. It’s also something we are all capable of doing.

“We’re genetically wired to be kind. It’s actually our deepest identity,” said featured author and former organic chemist, David Hamilton. “It’s when we’re not being kind that it’s unhealthy.”

Kindness isn’t something we just do; it’s something we need, says Hamilton. Note that kindness is the opposite of stress. Yet we live in a culture which sometimes seems to subconsciously, actually choose stress, thinking for some no doubt, non-God-honoring reason, that kindness must be earned.

Kindness doesn’t have to be any grand gesture. It could simply be a smile or an affirming word. It could be the consistency of random acts… especially in social media or in circles not known to be consistently kind.

In the news morning segment, CBS introduced a couple who set out to do one small act of kindness every day for an entire year. (Let me say that again: every day for an entire year.) They acknowledged that at first, a lot of their friends made fun of them, but they continued, and quickly began to inspire others by posting their stories on social media with the accompanying hashtag, “KeepAmericaKind.” They shared tales of filling expired parking meters with coins, baking cookies for strangers, and sending pizzas to sheriffs’ departments, for example.

They are not alone. Acknowledging the contagious aspect of kindness, many more have embraced the idea of 52 “weeks” of kindness — #kind52 — aiming for one act and thus one post each week of the year. Note the sweet act from one longtime treasured friend:

“Week 1 of 52 Weeks of kindness. I took a picture of a puzzle that a patient’s husband completed while she was doing radiation. I had the picture printed and I am putting in a picture frame to give to him. This kept his mind busy while his wife was treated. He was so proud of this and I wanted him to remember the beautiful puzzle he had completed. Can’t wait to give it to him!! #kind52.”

And from another:

“Walking into the gym and the young girl from Fry’s grocery store was out gathering grocery carts, which of course were all over the parking lot. There was one just set up on some rocks on the curb, and as she came walking over I looked at her and said I’ve got this one and I pulled it out and took it over to where her line of carts were and placed it in there… It may not be a huge act of kindness but it made somebody’s job just a little bit easier and it let her know how much she’s appreciated. #kind52” 

Oh, how I love this! And oh, how refreshing it is in place of all the rants and raves and finger pointing; the rants and and raves and finger pointing are too often not very kind.

We can do better, friends, but in order to do better, we must be intentional; we must use “the muscle,” so-to-speak. As the segment concluded, if our “kindness muscle” goes unused, it will atrophy, and the urge to be kind will go away.

So if we are going to be kind adults, it’s easier the earlier we begin to exercise the muscle. Such is the thinking of Brian Williams, the founder of “Think Kindness.” Williams goes into schools across the country, encouraging and empowering elementary and middle school children…

“Be brave. Be kind. Change the world.”

Kindness begets kindness. We have the power to change the world.

What if we were known for what we are for?

What if we were known for being kind?



Undisputedly in our family, there’s been an excessive amount of football filling the TV screens as of late. Between the college bowl battles and professional teams jockeying for playoff position, our gridiron vernacular has been in frequent use.

There’s one penalty, no less, that seems to draw the ire — albeit also confusion — of everyone in the room… even from the less attentive, more casual fan…


To target means to “select as an object of attention or attack.”

According to the official rules of the NCAA [emphasis mine]:

“No player shall target and make forcible contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting (See Note 1 below). When in question, it is a foul…

Note 1: ’Targeting’ means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball.”

Targeting is designed to limit dangerous hits. It is a selective assessment — a judgment call, if you will.

The penalty continues to drive fans crazy.

While few fans are thrilled with the accompanying player ejection, the controversy seems to exist because of the inconsistency in application. Remember, “when in question, it is a foul.” Different people — looking at the situation from different angles — will call different things into question.” And to be a foul, the situation only has to be questioned. The rule does not require a helmet-to-helmet hit (Intramuralist foreshadow: it doesn’t require any face-to-face, seeking-first-to-understand interaction either).

Observers are attempting to discern the motive or purpose of another. They are attempting to assess intent. And the only observation that counts in their binding assessment is what they visibly see.

In other words, we are making judgment calls based solely on what we see…

That means we are not getting to know those involved. We are not…
… asking good questions…
… asking hard questions…
… listening to all that makes that person tick…
… and we are not seeking first to understand…

We are making judgment calls instead.

We are judging purpose based on what we see, thinking that’s all that’s relevant.

What we see is relevant; but what we see is not enough. When we judge based solely on what we see, we omit unseen angles; we omit unspoken motive; we omit other important aspects, that we haven’t taken the time to understand, that take far more than intellect or experience to comprehend. We then end up making assessments that are inconsistent and potentially inaccurate, even though we feel we’re right. We’re convinced we’re right.


Because we saw it.

Face-to-face contact is necessary. Putting ourself in another’s shoes is necessary… so is listening… asking good questions… being humble, selfless and genuine in our response… resisting the temptation to judge from afar.

When we feel we can judge the purpose of another solely based on what we see, we adopt a practice which causes further controversy because it is selectively, inconsistently applied.


a miracle in disguise

One of the things I don’t think this world does very well is consistently honor those who think differently than we do. Even though technically after the season, the Intramuralist wishes not to miss the messages of peace on Earth and “goodwill to men” that are visible when we do honor and respect one another. Thus, as told by Morris M in “TopTenz” and Rheana Murray in the New York Daily News some 5 years ago, note just one of the practical ways we can love on one another, starting with this special season of the year…


“If you’re a single mom struggling to make ends meet, getting into a car crash the week before Christmas is probably the last thing you want to do. So when Kim Kerswell rear-ended Sherene Borr on her way to get some last-minute presents, she had plenty reason to curse life out, big time. Only it turned out life was dealing her an unexpected favor…”


Single mom Kim Kerswell thought getting into a pricey fender-bender was the worst thing that could have happened to her weeks before Christmas.

It turned out to be the best.

Not only did the woman she hit forgive any damages to her car, she volunteered to save Christmas for Kerswell and her family.

“You could tell she was stressed,” Sherene Borr told the Daily News on Tuesday.

Kerswell rear-ended Borr in a Milford, Mass. parking lot last week, outside the Panera Bread where Kerswell works. As the women exchanged information, Kerswell divulged she was struggling to make ends meet, and raising two kids on her own.

An accident was the last thing the 30-year-old mom needed.

“She wasn’t sure if they could even afford Christmas,” Borr said.

“I explained to her that I grew up in a single mom family, and know how difficult it is.”

Borr, 37, offered to adopt Kerswell’s family for the holiday season and make sure her children had presents under the tree.

“For me, she’s like an angel,” Kerswell told WBZ-TV.

Borr, who also has two children, enlisted friends to help purchase all the gifts — including One Direction memorabilia for Kerswell’s 12-year-old daughter and a toy truck for her 3-year-old son.

“I have a good sense of when people are really in need,” Borr said. “I could just tell. We both ended up in tears.”

Borr, who is Jewish, adopts families every Christmas season with help from her synagogue. She’s making sure Kerswell is stocked with groceries, gift cards, and toys and clothes for her kids.

Kerswell vows to pay Borr’s kindness forward when she can.

“I know things are going to get better and when they do, my daughter and I, and my son, we’re going to help another family,” Kerswell told WBZ-TV.

The moms say they’ll “absolutely” be friends well after the holidays are over.


“Think about that for a second. Some people freak out if you so much as look at them the wrong way. Go smashing into their car and there’s no telling what might happen. But Borr not only didn’t get mad, she went out of her way to help this clearly stressed-out woman provide a Christmas for her kids that would have been unthinkable under normal circumstances. It just goes to show that, even in our rough-and-tumble world, people are still capable of the most heart-warming actions.”

Oh, how I love the practical ways we can show love and respect to one another. May we always be challenged to grow in this area… to value all…