"What kind of student were you at school?”
"Well… I got good grades, participated in most things, and was respectful to all my teachers. When people see me now (five years after finishing) they remember me as 'the nice guy’. Just… nice."
This conversation about his friend was recounted by a student, to the rest of the cohort, on the graduation night of Marist Youth Leader 2018. “Being nice…”
Every student who attends Marist Youth Leader is challenged to distinguish between the Kingdom of Niceness and the Kingdom of God. Which “kingdom” reigns in our schools?
THE KINGDOM OF NICENESS
The Kingdom of Niceness is sponsoring a child in Africa and posting on Facebook about how amazing it feels to give.
The Kingdom of Niceness is praying for world peace at the dinner table and walking past the two students who are fighting in the corridor the next day at school.
The Kingdom of Niceness is dropping the homeless man on the street a spare two dollars while, as Oscar Romero says: “The spare coat in your closet is stolen from the poor.”
The Kingdom of Niceness in our school, and its constant companion The Kingdom of Not-So-Niceness, is visible in the students who turn up with an empty stomachs or who are burdened with stereotypes. It is visible in the students who are victimised by bullies or shamed for their mistakes. It is visible in the students who are under pressure and struggling with stress. It is visible in the students who are battling with addiction. It is visible in the students who are socially isolated because of their beliefs or their sexuality or their skin colour or their different intelligence.
The Kingdom of Niceness in our schools, in our whole world, is accepted as the status quo, the conventional world of achievement and success. It is created and dictated by society, and it is measured by conformity and appearance. It ensures that we are nice people.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The Kingdom of God recognises that our faith is profoundly social. It suggests that we cannot call ourselves truly “Catholic” unless we hear and heed the Church’s call to work for justice and peace.
The Kingdom of God exists in our schools in our acts of mercy, freely given without expectation of return. It exists in compassion, “being passionate together” in the way that Jesus showed compassion to the poor and infirm. It exists in forgiveness, when we let go of the hurts and resentments that wind us up inside. It exists in humility, when we can live with what is true about ourselves, neither glossing over the darkness nor being frightened by our light. It exists in honesty, when we admit what is real and do not construct alternative facts.
The Kingdom of God exists in our schools when we accept that justice is the least we can do.
The Kingdom of God exists not in the world of conventional wisdom or conformity, but rather in the subversive wisdom and nonconformity of the Gospel of Christ. It is prophetic in that it calls us to speak the truth and challenge others to speak the truth. It measures not our worldly achievement and success, but rather what sort of people we will become.
The kingdom of niceness, or The Kingdom of God?