Weekly Meanderings, 3 September 2016

An amazing week with our new MA in NT cohort at Northern Seminary. Wonderful students — 20 of them — with a passion to know God through Scripture, and a week of growth in figuring out all these names and movements and moments in NT studies. What a week. Thanks Northern and thanks students! Including Becky Castle Miller who came from Netherlands for this cohort intensive.

Sarah Thebarge lets it roll:

I was typing on my laptop when my server came over to my table.  She had taken off her apron and had her purse slung over her shoulder.  “My shift is over,” she said.

“Oh!” I said, reaching for my wallet so I could pay my bill and tip her before she left.

“Don’t worry about it, honey,” she said.  “I paid for your meal.”

Before I could ask her why, or stand to give her a hug, she ducked out the door and she was gone.

I still have no idea why she paid for my food.  We hadn’t chatted at all.  She had no idea why I was flying or where I was going or what I do for a living or anything like that.   In all the “Pay-It-Forward” initiatives, I’ve never been the recipient of someone at a toll booth or a coffee shop paying for me.  This free bowl of oatmeal and cup of tea were the first things a stranger ever bought for me out of anonymous, generous kindness.

The plane from Detroit to Scranton was small, and we had to gate-check our roller board suitcases.

When we landed, there was a wheeled rack on the jet bridge loaded with luggage.  Usually, passengers retrieve their own bag and keep going.  But one of the guys from our flight had taken it upon himself to unload all the luggage from the rack, standing the bags upright and raising the handles so passengers didn’t have to wrangle the bags off the rack.   They could just get their bag and go.

The cynicism about society that the rude man in 8A had created in me was dissolved as I experienced several acts of unwarranted kindness yesterday in a free bowl of oatmeal and a suitcase that was lifted for me.

And it made me realize that we often think we’ll make the world a better place if we can make a major contribution — like a million-dollar donation or a cure for a deadly disease or a New York Times best-seller.

But, arguably, the opposite is true.  Each of us can heal our beautiful, broken world with small, simple acts of kindness, the same way a wound is healed cell by cell.  We can choose help over hate, healing over hurting, smiles over sneers, empathy over ego.

We can be generous beyond reason.  We can practice irrational, undeserved, random kindness.  We can vote with our attitude and actions for the way we want the world to be.

And we can start today.

If that wasn’t a feel-good story this is:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State University wide receiver Travis Rudolph and other FSU players visited a Tallahassee middle school and the star athlete saw a young student sitting by himself.

Sixth-grader Bo Paske has autism and often eats by himself, his mother, Leah Paske, said in a Facebook post.

Rudolph, who is entering his junior season as a wide receiver on FSU’s football team, made headlines Wednesday after a random act of kindness was caught on camera and shared on social media. When Rudolph and his Seminoles teammates visited Montford Middle School in Tallahassee on Tuesday afternoon, he noticed Bo Paske was eating alone.

Rudolph decided to join the boy for lunch and, during the meal, a photograph was taken and sent to Bo’s mother, who posted it on Facebook.

“He is a super sweet child, who always has a smile and hug for everyone he meets,” Paske wrote in the Facebook post. “I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes. Travis Rudolph ,thank you so much, you made this momma exceedingly happy, and have made us fans for life.”

The Facebook post got back to Rudolph, who, like many who read the post, was nearly brought to tears by Leah’s words.

And what many thought they knew Carrie Arnold now makes clear:

It doesn’t take a scientific study for dog owners to believe that their pets know what they’re saying. (We cat owners are a little less certain.)

But it’s not always clear exactly what Fido is paying attention to.

When we say “Good dog!” dogs hear both the words we say and how we say them, new brain scans show. For people, both the word and intonation are important, but no one knew—until now—whether that was also the case for dogs. (See “Dogs Are Even More Like Us Than We Thought.”)

In a study published August 29 in Science, scientists found the canine brain also processes the information in a similar way as humans.

“I’m quite excited by this finding. It’s really exciting to see such close correspondence between brain activity in humans and dogs,” said Chris Petkov, a neuropsychologist at the U.K.’s University of Newcastle who was not involved in the study.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.