Last year our small group Cornerstone did a 6 week study on the book of John. Love is a consistent theme throughout that book. Most of us are familiar with the following scripture, which is in that book, "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another", John 13:34-35. Sounds easy enough when you read it, but putting it into action in our every day lives, well let's just say, that's not so easy.
If some of you are like me, you struggle with "loving" certain people in your life, whether that be a co-worker, a certain "friend", someone from your church or yes, even a family member. So how do we often handle those that just aren't easy to love? Here are some of the ways I've done so in the past. Avoid them, don't talk to them, ignore/don't acknowledge them when I see them or give them a very disingenuous greeting, talk about them to others, just remove them from your life and here's an oldie but goody, I'll love them when they love me, or when they apologize. Wow, that's really hard to see in print and even harder to admit that at one time or another, I have unfortunately used everyone of those methods.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about loving others, especially because I've been struggling with some relationships in my life. And these aren't just casual friends or occasional acquaintances, these are family members and decades long friends. Maybe you have some of the same struggles in your life. It's hard to love someone when you think they've wronged you, whether real or perceived, or done the same to someone you love. Or maybe they think differently than you, so obviously you're right and they're wrong. Or maybe their solution to a problem is in direct conflict with your solution. Or maybe they're just one of those people that are hard to love. So what do you do? I could say love them anyway, but for many of us, that's just not possible. It's easy to say, but good luck doing it!
I'd like to suggest a much smaller step and possible easier solution. This isn't a cop out, but something to bridge that divide between not loving and eventually loving. I personally am not strong enough in some circumstances and with some people to just love, though I strive to get there some day. That doesn't mean I should just give up on that situation or that person. This takes me back to one of my favorite sayings, "it's better to start small than not at all." Many of you have heard me use this before and I can't think of a better place to institute that quip.
So here's my solution, how about just being kind. Maybe it starts with a genuine greeting the next time you see "that person". Like making eye contact, having positive body language, or even a warm handshake. That's much easier to do, right? It might not sound like much, but go back and review some of the ways I handled these situations. Which has the potential to have a more positive outcome? Now am I saying this will always work? I'd like to think so, but it might not. However, what will it probably do for you and I believe in most instances, for the other person? How about removing our self-righteous attitudes, ridding ourselves of pride, releasing stubbornness and softening our hardened hearts. Now that's good, right? Then the next thing you know, that cordial but well meaning greeting or handshake is now a heartfelt hug and before you know it, you have found a new friend, or rekindled an old friendship. Again I ask, that's good, right? Can it really be something so small, so simple? Can it really be that easy? Yes, I believe it can and it all starts with a little kindness.
Though I still fail at this often, I have got it right a few times as well. And as I have come to see, others have thankfully got it right with me too. And those are stories that I love to share with people, but for now, let me close with this. Let's just try and be more kind to each other every day. And before you know it, guess what might just be peeking around the corner?
We left our church family in late October of 1942 getting used to the new Sunday morning schedule which had the Morning Worship service at 9:30 and Sunday School at 10:30 with the end of Sunday morning activities at 11:30 rather than 12 noon. My guess was that the shortening of time spent in the church on Sunday morning was in response to a nation-wide government request to save coal – nay, stronger than a request – coal was rationed. Our church boilers were fired by coal in 1942. Other items rationed were gasoline, tires, sugar, coffee, and meat. New cars were no longer available for purchase and would not be until sometime after the war’s end in 1945. (Cars were manufactured in late 1945, but they were the 1946 models.) Many industries were converted from supplying items for domestic use to supplying items needed for the war. Price controls were established to ensure that the scarcity of so many products wouldn’t result in their being sold for much higher amounts than the average family could afford. Life for everyone in the U.S. had changed rapidly since that devastating Sunday in December of the prior year. Just south and west of Girard by about 25 miles, a new dam was being constructed on the upper part of the Mahoning River in Berlin Township. Its purpose was to ensure that water could be held back from flooding the steel mills during spring rains, and then released during summer droughts to ensure that the mills had sufficient water to produce steel at maximum production. The Milton Dam had been completed in 1916, creating the lake in 1917. The increased steel production since that time required more ability to control the flow of the river. The dam in Berlin Township was completed in late October of 1942. Both dams would be guarded around the clock to prevent any sabotage, as they were essential to providing the steel we needed to produce the planes, ships, tanks, shells, and any other steel related items needed for the war.
In spite of being bombarded with constant war news, church life went on. The Official Board met on November 4th. The meeting received good financial news from both the Sunday School Supt. and the Trustees. The Sunday School could now donate $1,000 to the Building Fund. The Building Fund had suffered terribly during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The new church had just been completed before the Stock Market crash of 1929. During the depression years of the early and mid thirties, the church simply could not afford to pay on their large mortgage.
Many times the Board would wonder which bills it could pay that month. Our prior Minister, Rev. Hilberry, often got his paycheck several weeks late. Now, with our country at war, the steel mills were working around the clock. The unemployment rate was practically zero. And our church was finally able to seriously tackle the building fund. And they did. The Trustees report to the Official Board was that the Building Fund was in good shape. They would keep working at paying off that mortgage throughout the war years until it was paid off at last.
Near the end of November came Thanksgiving Day. It has always been a family celebration and the year 1942 was no exception. Our church families gathered around their tables, and gave thanks for living here in the U.S., not where the war was raging in Europe, Asia, Africa and the high seas. They prayed for family members already in the fight, and for those about to be drafted. And they prayed for our country, and our country’s young men and also young women going wherever they were sent to defend us all.
November, 1942 Our church family seventy-five years ago.