It's easy to spot her. She's the one lugging the 45-pound army backpack, looking at a crumpled piece of paper, double checking the map on her phone all while trudging down narrow streets, dodging other humans, bicyclists, motorcycles, cars, trucks and buses as well as under construction zones while desperately searching for any street sign which may or may not be embedded or plastered into the side of a historically stunning building.
Traveling around Madrid on foot is nothing less than a scavenger hunt. It's a wild ride of an adventure...a delightfully frustrating feat.
With all due respect and sincere, heartfelt appreciation, old cities in Europe were chaotically built and chaotically they evolved. They were designed like mazes that stretch out from multiple centers or plazas, with overlapping spaghetti routes and streets that crisscross and change names from one side to the other.
A few locals don't even know the names of the streets, but rather depend on the perspective that land markers (like the nearest metro stop or the local bakery) offer. Indeed every cluster of streets, buildings, inhabitants is its own amazing, tiny, buzzing microorganism of community, activity, connection, and dependence stemming from their own mini plaza.
What helped me the most to navigate, by the way, was not Google maps or the hand held tourist map of the area (I couldn't find my reading glasses anyway!).
What really impacted me the most on this adventure, no matter the city or town, no matter the street or alley, no matter the time of day was the simple and authentic kindness of a stranger. Spaniards are characterized by their friendliness. Stereotypically, they are internationally known for the amount of "chill" they manage to incorporate into their day, but this chill includes their remarkable desire to socialize and genuinely enjoy life and connect with others in meaningful ways. They pass this attitude right on to strangers, tourists like I.
Being kind translates in any language with a simple smile, a pause in someone's day that says, "I will help you," or empathetic eyes that express a desire to make
This is the Spain I love.
This is the "Spain" I want to express in my own small hometown here in Midway, Kentucky, when a stranger pulls over to the side of the road to ask me where the softball field is or how to get to Versailles from there. This is the "Spain" I want to demonstrate to my neighbors when I see them working in their garden or sitting on their porch. This is also the "Spain" I want to reflect to those I love the most, my family and friends.
In my opinion, the long lasting attitude and mindset of kindness at foundation are found and first defined outside ourselves. In other words, where did kindness come from? I would say that God embodies the essence of kindness--He IS kindness and DISPLAYS kindness. [In His great love for us, He is also just--but that is another topic.]
Kindness is linked to steadfast, unfailing love, loyalty, mercy, favor, and goodness. God's lovingkindness is described as "reaching to the heavens." I really like that thought.
Perhaps the greatest show of kindness to be recorded in the history of humankind was that of Jesus Christ who demonstrated sacrificial love by offering His very life. He was condemned and crucified as guilty, yet was innocent. He wasn't forced to die; He willingly succumbed to a torturous death--for you and for me! Do you understand that mystery?
His kindness that led me to repentance is pervasive, expansive, and never ending and ought to stoke in me that internal *uneasiness,* if you will, that pines for refinement and perfection.
I picture my little self, pin-pointed on the map of God's creation, living and breathing for just a blip of time on eternity's itinerary, walking out the purpose He has for me while ever mindful that He is in me yet beyond me.
God teaches me the value of desiring to be just like He is, no matter where I am positioned on earth, Spain notwithstanding.
Indeed, God's kindness is the best GPS we could ever hope to have in our sojourn here on earth. It doesn't matter where we live, what language we speak, or where we are headed in life.
So today, let's pass on the kindness with our time, our energy, our smiles, our encouragement. You may never know just how meaningful your good-hearted gesture might be.
Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
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