Think of new year as an opportunity for kindness


January 8, 2021

Pastor John Napoli

For 39 years my family and I have been engaged in this area. I am blessed to have had the good fortune to have wonderful opportunities to engage with thousands of area people over the years. My involvement included restaurants - Perkins and Black Woods - operating a small business, Northern Kawasaki, and pastoring a small church, River of Life. My appreciation for living in this area continues to grow with each passing year, and I look forward to the coming year, 2021.

A community is known by how its people treat one another, not its economic status, athletic awards or special physical features like a waterfall or river. A community is identified by how the people in it treat and support one another.

In my life there have always been divisive issues that could and would divide people in a community. We have lived through many of them and we have always come out stronger in the end. We now live in unprecedented times, and contentious issues have escalated over recent years and now seem to have developed into a critical mass in 2020.

Politics, Covid-19, facemasks and the economy are just a few issues we can find ourselves with very different views from one another, even members of our own family, neighbors, co-workers and friends. I have even had to navigate these challenging waters within the church.

The present environment can lead to either a very divided community or a community that continues to work together and take care of one another in spite of differing views. I have always been one to look out over a situation and make a statement like "This is what they should do" or "If they could simply listen and understand why my view is right, we would all be better off."

When I was in my 20s and 30s, this was my mantra. But life has a way of softening the passion behind the opinions and views one has. A person begins to see that the people around them are intelligent, people who overall make very good decisions. If this person has a different opinion or view on a sensitive issue, I need to step back and realize they probably have a good reason for their view. Instead of judging, I need to listen. I might change my mind, I may not change my view and land on the place of agreeing to disagree but still look out for one another's well-being.

Acts of kindness is a call to action I would like to promote. I am a member of the Riverview Toastmasters Club in Cloquet and at each meeting we have topics on which we are asked a question. Recently a member, David, asked questions surrounding the topic of "Acts of Random Kindness" or ARK. This little exercise struck me with the thought: If I want to live in a community that cares for each other's needs more than our own particular views, it needs to start with me. I need to remind myself to see all those around me are simply people like me trying to survive and live a good life. I should not see them and judge them based on their particular views and convictions.

Will I take an action that will edify, lift up or help them, or will their views and opinions stop me from acting? I would love it if all those around me would want to help my family and me, but I realize that it has to start with me.

Will 2021 be a year for our community to shine as a community that takes care of one another? Will it be a time with neighbors helping each other through the challenges? Is this the year we learn a little more about those around us in the community and neighborhoods, and be a strength to each other and not judge if someone is on your side or not? It can be, but it starts with you and me. Will you be the one that begins the ARK?

I promise I will do my best to take my own advice on this topic. Who will join me?

John Napoli is the pastor at the River of Life Church in Cloquet.


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