Pentecost 86

What a difference two letters can make. When it comes to kindness, those two letters make all the difference. Knowledge is wisdom, intelligence, learned matter. Knowledge is good but unless it is put to use, it really is little bit more than curiosity answered. Add the letters “a” and “c” to the word “knowledge”, and all of a sudden you have gratitude, the acknowledgement of which just might make someone’s ordinary quite extraordinary.

By putting an “a” and a “c” before the word “knowledge’, we create a new word and a great way to show kindness. The word “acknowledge” comes from fifteenth and sixteenth century words from both France and England, words that mean “recognize” or “understand” or “accord”. When we thank someone, we recognize their actions, show them we have understood their intentions. All too often, however, we forget that thanking someone does put us in accord with them.

Frequently, particularly in the political world, it is felt that one must be in complete accord or agreement with someone in order to acknowledge them. It really is a very cowardly way to live but also appears in religious contexts as well. We can acknowledge someone and understand that they are not us and do things different without undermining our own lives. No one is exactly like you or me. When we acknowledge that fact, then we are free to show kindness, especially to those who are different. Their beliefs only threaten us when we live fearfully and without confidence in our own beliefs. We are also free to accept kindness and acknowledge it with gratitude.

The understand facet of the word “acknowledge” is similar in its application. To acknowledge someone having a different opinion and fully grasping their opinion means we understand them. It also is showing them great kindness because it is allowing them dignity, much like what we referenced in our conversation above and in past discussions regarding respect. To express gratitude to someone is the highest form of respect as well as acknowledgement.

The easiest and most cost effective way of showing kindness to someone is to recognize them and simply say “Thank you”. It recognizes and illustrates that you accept and understand their action for which you are grateful. More importantly, it says that you acknowledge they have value. After all, we all have value in our own special way. Regardless of which creation myth you believe, we are all wondrously made. Recognize the individual and then follow up with behavior that reflects that recognition and you will be showing someone great kindness. It can be as easy as a hand raised in greeting or a joyful “Hello!”

In 1865 the American Civil War, officially known as the War Between the States, was drawing to an end. The states that had seceded were rejoining and the Colonies were once again a viable democracy. France had been involved with the colonies almost since their inception, sometimes as an ally and sometimes as an enemy. However, for almost one hundred years, France had assisted the colonies. It was because of this connection that historian Edouard De Laboulaye suggested France create a statue and give to the United States. The commission for such was awarded to sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. France would create and gift the sculpture to the U.S.A. and it would build the pedestal upon which the statue would stand, furthering acknowledging the partnership and friendship between the two nations.

A need for fundraising delayed the start of the massive project until one year before the US/s centennial celebrations. The finished statue was delivered and dedicated in October, 1886, ten years after the nation’s centennial. The inscription, the winning sonnet in a fundraising contest of 1883, was penned by Emma Lazarus: ““Give me your tired, your poor; Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This inscription acknowledges each and every immigrant that passes through Ellis Island and serves as a welcome to the thousands of others that arrive in other ports across the country. The Statue of Liberty, as the statue became known, operated as a lighthouse for almost fifty years, sending its beacon of light emanating from Lady Liberty’s torch out into the night, giving safe passage and welcoming all in acknowledgement of their presence. The contributions of those who are immigrated to this country are without number. From the cuisine, the cultural mores, to the fashion and athletic abilities represented on the recent Team USA which topped the medal charts at the Rio 2016 Olympics, those who have immigrated have given much for which the world, not just the USA, should be grateful.

My challenge for you this day is to wave hello to someone. Acknowledge their presence. Nothing complicated in that, is there? And if you cannot raise your arm to wave then nod and smile. By doing so, you will be showing kindness to that other person, regardless of their station in life or bank account or position of authority. Person to person, you will be welcoming them just as the Statue of Liberty has welcomed millions throughout the years.

Sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is to recognize their existence. We don’t have to want to emulate them or believe just as they do. Acknowledgement simply means we recognize their presence. To acknowledge someone is to show kindness of thought and presence and it costs us nothing to give. During the Rio Olympics a track meet was held. An American runner acknowledged an Australian runner falling and gave her a quick arm up to help her stand and get back in the race. Then the American fell and the Ussie returned the favor. The two girls ended up helping each other across the finish line despite both being injured. This was a great show of respect and gratitude and they both won Olympic gold medals in sportsmanship, making it only the seventeenth time such medals were awarded.

Remember your challenge for this day is to simply wave a greeting to someone or nod your head in a friendly manner towards another person. No one is truly invisible and when we acknowledge another, we are giving them value and worth. It is a simple gift that will mean everything to someone. I promise at least one person will wave back, a silent thank to you for recognizing and acknowledging them. Being grateful really can be as easy as a quick smile, a nod, or a wave.


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