Column by First Presbyterian Church Pastor Stewart Rawson: We can build a better community if we try a little harder to be kind


My name is Stewart Rawson, and I am the new pastor at First Presbyterian Church here in Sumter. It is my privilege and honor to serve this historic church, and I will look forward to working hard to maintain its commitment to this community. It is easy for churches to turn inward and think only of their own needs, but I will strive to be the best neighbor I can be.

Speaking of neighbors, I was traveling several weeks ago and had to fly. If anyone has flown lately, you can attest that flying has become a chore and a challenge. Everyone (including me, I must humbly admit) is focused on where they are going, what they are doing and how they are going to get there. The boarding process, when everyone gets in their assigned line, is chaotic to say the least. In order to avoid extra charges for checking bags, folks will put everything they own in a small, roller bag and then try to jam it in the overhead bin. I watched as people lost their temper with innocent flight attendants and then turned their ire toward their fellow passengers.

As a Christian, I have committed myself to try my best to follow the teachings and example of Jesus. In his earthly life, Jesus instructed his followers to "love their neighbors as they love themselves." Sometimes that seems easier said than done. In another place, Jesus tells his followers to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We refer to this as the Golden Rule. It is interesting to me that in my casual research I have discovered that every major world religion has this teaching in their sacred writings. In Judaism, the Talmud teaches, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor." Islamic followers are taught, "Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself." And in Hinduism it is written, "This is the sum of duty; do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you."

My conclusion is that almost everyone you meet believes this to be true, or at least we should believe it to be true. I believe we should all commit ourselves to living like this, trying our best to follow the Golden Rule or our version of the same. Once again, as I said before, easier said than done!

How much different would our city be if each of us tried a little harder to be kind and to treat others as we want to be treated? How much different would it be to travel if we all paused for a moment, took a deep breath and tried to practice kindness? My hope and prayer for all of us is that we take the extra time each day to be reminded of these words and then to live as if they are written in and on our heart.

Together we can help to build a better community.

Stewart Rawson is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Sumter.