I have often heard of courses designed to help students acquire skills they will need as adults. There are courses whereby a person learns how to make up a monthly budget, or care for a baby, or fill out tax forms, and probably, nowadays, how to use computer programs for various needs. I started thinking that perhaps there should be a course called “Thoughtfulness 101.”
Thoughtfulness mean being immersed in a meditative state, and that can certainly be useful, calming, and productive. My course on thoughtfulness, however, would be associated with the second meaning I found online in Oxford Languages: consideration for the needs of others.
Being thoughtful in this way takes a little extra time. We might have to slow down a bit. It involves pushing the focus off oneself and asks us to intentionally look at others. It can even be anonymous—for example, picking up some object someone had dropped onto the floor or holding a door open for someone coming behind you with their hands full. Thoughtfulness does not have to be expensive, moneywise or time wise. A greeting card can be purchased at a dollar store for 50 cents. Eye contact and a smile take only a second but can be contagious and encouraging.
I would like to think that thoughtfulness comes naturally and does not have to be taught; but in today’s hi-tech society, I notice people seem to be encouraged by retailers and online promotions to be very busy on their phones and iPads learning what is important to them, what they want and “need”, and how they feel about this and that. Their interests are turned inward. Now, of course, I am generalizing; not all things online make us selfish. I am saying that my Thoughtfulness 101 class would gently lead students to sometimes take the focus off themselves and use their powers of deduction and creativity to extend little acts of unexpected kindness to others. It is sort of like putting icing on the cake of life.
It is easy to fall into habits. I was watching people walking by me downtown this morning. A few of them were only physically there; they were talking on and listening to their cellphones as they walked.
Thoughtfulness involves those small surprise gestures, those little extras, that enhance our relationships. Why not make an effort to remember a friend’s grand baby’s first name as you ask about the child’s well-being? How about yielding the front seat in a group car ride to someone who prefers it? Should we consider phoning a shut-in acquaintance just to briefly pass the time of day? Maybe an unexpected fresh ice-cream cone offered to a neighbor on a very hot day would be welcomed. I complimented a sales clerk on her pretty eyelashes one day; she was so surprised that I noticed.
Proverbs 16:24 reminds us
Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
We are the kids of the King of Heaven, so it is our duty to spread the good love of that kingdom.
St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians (3:12):
As God’s chosen ones, Holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
We should take the time now and then to think about what special little acts of kindness can make those we love feel even more loved. I am sure graduating from Thoughtfulness 101 class would bring joy to all of us!
Photo by Mei-Ling Mirow (detail) on Unsplash
The Scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.