Peter Reinhart, an award-winning bread-maker, shares insights he's picked up on his spiritual journey. As a lay member of an Eastern Orthodox service order, he discusses the depth charges of the spiritual practice of kindness.
"Courtesy is, at one level, a type of civility that allows people to get along better. It also goes deeper than that, an acknowledgment of someone else's importance and worth. At its most profound level, it recognizes the inherent divinity of another. The fastest way to know God is to serve the God in someone else was the compelling teaching that drew me into the spiritual life. The conscious practice of civil courtesies is a way to exercise this teaching.
"It took me a while to grasp that being courteous, or being good and doing good things, is not an automatic quid pro quo for spiritual attainment. There are, sadly, plenty of stories of courteous scoundrels, but if we understand the dynamic within true civility it can set a powerful living prayer into motion. Getting along is not an end in itself, but it symbolizes kinship. The practice of courteousness, in its depth, can be internalized and interpreted as a way in which God recognizes God. It is, in that regard, a way of spreading light and virtue. Complex theology and the quest for union with God can, in daily practice, be reduced to such actions. Two simple words, thank you, unleash a wave of communion-like energy that connects two passing souls for an instant in a deep and profound way. Basic civility is like the bond that is formed when we share a meal together. It is a priestly act."
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