Why would Christians, Buddhists, Baha’is, Muslims, Jews, and Earth religions come together To celebrate kindness! The Kindness Campaign sponsored its second Interfaith Celebration of Kindness on February 13 along with co-sponsors WNC Interfaith Network, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, Christians for a United Community, and Holy Ground, at the Unitarian Universalist Church.
Mark Ward, minister of the church, welcomed everyone and later led the singing of a Unitarian hymn, "Spirit of Life." Sharon Oxendine, a Lumbee Indian woman, called in the four directions. Judith Toy and other Cloud Cottage Sangha members led a chant to the bodhisattva of compassion, while carrying a gold and blue giant puppet of the Buddha with gently waving hands.
Anne Wray and other Jubilee Community dancers performed "Seasons of Love," acting out a drama of a group of friends rallying around a person who is in trouble. "All creatures are God’s children, and those dearest to God are those who treat His children kindly," said Ahmad Amara, quoting from the Qu’ran. Zeranges sang a Baha’i prayer in Farsi. Josefa Briant and other members of Beth Israel Synagogue danced a traditional Hebrew prayer, "Our steps bring the One who gives good messages."
Robbie Williams of Hill Street Baptist Church performed a beautiful Praise Dance ("We Shall Behold Him") and Margaret Evans of St. Eugene Catholic Church sang "The Lord is Kind and Merciful." Robert Akers and the Sounds of Joy from Unity Church of Asheville sang "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" and the audience joined in enthusiastically with "Everybody get together, try and love one another right now." Calen Rayne read a Jack Kerouac poem, "The Trance of Compassion," and sounded a 300-year-old Tibetan singing bowl.
American Sign Language interpreters Susun Slatky and Lynn Brooks gracefully signed for the hearing impaired. All celebrated the good news that kindness isuniversal among faith traditions. The ceremony closed with a benediction from Byron Ballard, as a spirited group of Pagan drummers beckoned the crowd into the fellowship hall for a potluck feast.
Several participants were asked what they thought the impact of the celebration was for themselves and for the community:
"Bringing together people of ALL faiths around the concept and practice of Kindness is huge. The program was simple and beautiful and I left feeling warmed, more open, and KINDER. It was an inclusive evening of the highest order. If others felt similarly, the event must have increased the city’s (and the planet’s!) kindness-consciousness through the hologram that connects us all."
"A couple hundred people of various faiths coming together and expressing themselves in very different ways, but all giving the same message about charity, kindness, giving love and encouragementif 200 people can come together, we can bring the whole world together in very much the same way."
"I liked the eclectic mix of many races, creeds and religions, and how Kindness was the core of everything. Sitting, eating and chatting with people I’d never met before was a positive experience. People were getting to know each other a little. Each year, new people are coming and sharing in it."
"I was truly impressed and inspired by the Celebration. And it really was a Celebration. The energy in the sanctuary felt wonderful…. There was such diversity on one hand and such unity on the other. I absolutely think events like this can bring the community closer."
"There we were all one, for a common purpose: to show that we support kindness in the community. I believe that it breaks down religious differences when we come together as a group to celebrate something we all believe in: that there’s goodness, kindness in each of us. This event inspired me to want to volunteer for the Kindness Campaign!"
Kindness Week, proclaimed by Mayor Bellamy, began with an award ceremony in which Barry Weinhold, Director of the Kindness Campaign, and the Mayor gave out "Community of Kindness" awards to eleven agencies that helped refugees from Hurricane Katrina. Other events were a Valentine’s Day dinner cooked by Kindness Campaign volunteers for homeless women and children, and several showings of "Ryan’s Well," an inspiring documentary film about a young boy whose efforts made a huge difference for a thirsty Ugandan village.
Why do people cook for the homeless Annie Mitchell, one of the volunteers, said, "I enjoy serving peoplenot just to be nice for Valentine’s Day, but throughout the year. I volunteer in my church, and I care for my handicapped sister. I just like to help out and share the kindness that’s in my heart."
Roger Beaumont, who baked 4 dozen cookies for the women and children, added this: "To mindfully and with kind intent make dozens of cookies to be shared, somehow brings together Nonviolent Communication and the teachings of the Buddha. They are both ways of doing things reflectively, thoughtfully, meditatively. I take great pleasure in feeding others my cookies and other meals. Sharing food seems for me to be a way of pleasing, of inviting vulnerability, a stage for receiving and giving empathy."