Katy Sundararajan gets to write this blog post for me because I finally beat her in a pizza eating contest last fall. Previously she held the championship title since 1996. She is also famous as the Th.M. Program Administrator and International Student Advisor at Western Theological Seminary and works part-time as an RCA missionary with her husband, JP. They have the unmeasurable joy of sharing God’s Word with those who cannot read with Audio Scripture Ministries. Katy and JP have two children who beg them daily for pet cats, dogs and now chickens, but these things are too hard to care for when they skip continents. They do have a very likable fish named Spiderman.
During a college event at my campus pastor’s home I was once forced to play the infamous mixer Name Game where, around the circle, everyone must state their first name and an adjective that describes them, beginning with the same letter as their first name. I say I was forced to play because I typically despise this game. My name is Katy, and while I like my name quite well, I find the letter “K” to be quite infuriating in the mixer realm. Around the circle we went, and as my turn became inevitable, I ramped up internally. What, pray tell, begins with “K”!?! If I wanted to be a jokester, I thought I should say “kissable,” though I wan’t much of a kisser back then. And, if I tried to come up with any other answer at all, I could only think of “kind.”
Are you kidding me?
Well, not wanting to be remembered as kissable, I guess, I began my name presentation with a wild rant about how much I dislike the game and all I could come up with was “kind,” and with a harrumph of frustration I re-iterated, “Katy is kind.” Recklessly emoting like this, of course, created the long lasting impression that I definitely was not looking for, and still, on the rare occasion that I happen to be around this beloved, but still ornery campus pastor, he’ll say with a soft, honorable chuckle, “Katy, you’re so kind.”
To clarify, I wouldn’t say that I thought kindness was a bad thing. People should realistically desire to be dubbed “kind.” But for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, kindness seemed, to me, so bland. It was almost a throw-away description of a person. What milder, more innocuous word could I use to represent myself to others? Clearly, I thought higher of myself, and as my outburst still (embarrassingly) proves, I was anything but mild.
But then time passed.
Kindness became something I longed to be equated with Katy. The recognition of kindness given, derived from nothing I myself did, changed my perspective. Kindness was rich. Kindness was becoming. Kindness was abundantly refreshing and life-giving. A well opened within me; it was a deep, cool place to hold kindness and a place from which I could dispense kindness. I wanted to pour kindness into the surrounding parched land of meanness and sarcasm and spite. To be kind was to give a gift, and everyone wants to receive a gift.
In my family, and with my friends, and when I run errands, and certainly in my work with international students within the US, and as I work with Americans who are experiencing India for the first time, I find that “Kind Katy” is usually the most excellent option. In fact, it is the only right and agreeable choice in most situations. If I am kind I can offer my best to each and every person around me, even if they are different, even if we disagree, even if they are not kind to me. Kindness establishes a common ground whether or not I was looking for it.
In our culture we are quite used to all things vibrant and bold. Brash is the new beautiful. Abrupt is the fancied time-line. Kindness might present as plain, old-fashioned or weak, but perhaps kindness just has an old soul and is offered out of wisdom and long-standing humility. Kindness is one of the strongest gifts we can offer to anyone weak or hurting.
I do wonder if I did not want to associate myself with kindness during that college moment because kindness requires vulnerability and kindness involves trust. Offering kindness to another means actually seeing and understanding what they might be lacking and then extending a piece of ourselves as grace in that moment, trusting that we too will be seen and understood and that the grace will be received. Kindness gives us the opportunity to offer our best to each and every individual.
Kindness is not to be trifled with, and I hope that if and when my campus pastor thinks of me he might still think that I am kind.