Kindness starts with you: Pass it on

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 25, 2024

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Years ago, when I was very involved in music ministry, including outreach programs, prison ministry, and weekend retreats such as “Walk to Emmaus,” time and time again we would sing a favorite hymn, a 1969 Spiritual called “Pass it On.”

The first verse was especially catchy, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love once you’ve experienced it, you spread his love to everyone – you want to pass it on.”

“Big Picture/ Little Picture.” As mayor, I meet with a lot of people. In fact, sometimes the most challenging part of my job is getting the “big picture” items done while still doing what some would call the “little picture” tasks – meeting with and taking the phone calls from constituents. Daily, however, I have to remind myself, that what some would call the “little picture” activity is actually the “biggest picture” – because as mayor, I am called to serve, and meeting with and talking to the citizens of Natchez as their servant leader is actually my most important task. And it’s from many of these countless meetings and phone calls that most of our “big picture” accomplishments have found their beginning.

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Lately, my days as mayor have been heavy – heavy with meetings with citizens sharing complaints that all have a common denominator: a lack of kindness. Hard to believe that in a city as friendly and hospitable as Natchez, there exists such a thing, but sadly, our community is not immune to the tide of selfishness that has overtaken our country.

The following is a list of some of the meetings and conversations I have experienced just this week: people ignoring speed signs daily and even exhibiting acts of road rage; bullies taking to social media, using lies, threats, and slander just to make life miserable for others; neighbors neglecting their property, playing loud music, allowing their dogs to bark all night, and shouting profanity to others when anything doesn’t go their way; and perhaps the worst – racists continually using tactics of hate and division to disrupt the harmony and growing unity we are experiencing in our beautiful city.

“It only takes a spark to get the fire going…” In the song “Pass it On,” this verse refers to the power of love, but sadly, it can also be taken the other way. Sometimes, all it takes in the world of today is one unkind word or action to undo years of progress and set off fires of hate. Just watch the news any day of the week and you’ll see what it’s doing to our country.

I take comfort in knowing that, despite the evidence of unkind actions shared with me during these recent meetings and conversations, our city, as a whole, is the model of kindness. One needs only to see the outpouring of love for a beloved young Natchez entrepreneur, Jason Tyson, who lost his life this week to a senseless act of vehicular violence. A family has now lost a husband, a father, a son – and Natchez has lost a dear friend and amazing business owner. The actions that resulted in Jason’s death were inexcusable. But I take comfort knowing we live in a city that has showered such kindness, love and affection for this young man’s grieving family. And we continue to keep the Tyson family in our prayers.

Acts of selfishness, hate and unkindness have no place in our city. And I for one would like to imagine a world where kindness reigns. Some may call this a utopian fantasy, but I see it already evidenced in our city. Natchez is a special place, and the kindness that exists here is amazing.

People of Natchez – I ask you to begin taking bold and purposeful steps to be examples of kindness to one another and to reverse the effects of those few whose actions have been just the opposite. As I’ve quoted before, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

Kindness – it starts with you. It only takes a spark. Pass it on. Because Natchez Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.