Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. I Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)
One of the historical organizations I work with has a luncheon meeting every month. It is covered dish so everyone brings something to go with the fried chicken that is purchased as the meat dish. I have worked with this organization for twenty five years and eaten fried chicken on the second Friday of every month all that time. The group is going through a transition as many of the older members who helped to found it are passing away, and their spots are being taken by younger professionals who work full time and do not have time to cook. They are happy to contribute to “the chicken fund”, but it is making it hard to predict whether we will have enough food to go around. Some of the older members are getting grumpy that they do all the cooking. The disagreements over the luncheon are really symbolic of the push and pull of an organization undergoing change. The younger crowd does things differently. It is not that they are wrong, just that they are different. There is one person who straddles the two groups and tries to be a peacemaker. B. is of a family with deep roots in our community. Her husband still works, but they have the good fortune of a family inheritance so she has not worked outside the home other than to help occasionally in her husband’s office. She has served in many community service organizations and knows a lot of the people who could make a financial contribution to our non profit. But, her most striking feature is that in all the time I have worked with her, I have never heard her complain or say anything negative about anyone. She is always gracious and kind in her speech and is a great encouragement to all of us. She supports our work every way she can and is quick to praise and tell us what a great job we are doing. Recently, she was helping clean up after a meeting and one of my staff was struggling with a roll of plastic wrap. You know how that stuff sticks and wads up and the roll gets jammed up then flings itself out of the box to unwind all over the floor? Very kindly, she took the box and said, “You need to fix your box.” She pushed in the two tabs on the side which held the roll into place and the plastic then, smoothly unrolled. We all stood there in awe. Honestly, I have never noticed those tabs. Instead of acting superior and haughty, B. just smiled and said, “Isn’t it amazing? I never knew they were there until someone showed me.” All of us encounter people who need the knowledge that we possess. We have a choice in how we share it. We can act like they are ignorant for not knowing or present the information in a kind and helpful way. Like B., we will be known for our gentleness.