Some time ago I wrote about an event that I found intriguing. It was a simple matter of my wife going out of her way on a busy day to turn aside and offer help to a woman sitting in a wheelchair next to a curb at a store we had just left. It was a brief exchange, an easily forgotten non-event that went unnoticed by everyone except the ones involved. It didn’t
last more than a few seconds and produced no measurable impact. No strategic objectives were accomplished and no major sacrifices were involved. No lives were saved, no injuries were averted, and no one’s circumstances were altered, but it occurred to me that something with remarkably Biblical overtones had just taken place. For those few seconds, that little act of kindness made the atmosphere around a small piece of sidewalk in an insignificant Virginia town a more pleasant place to be.
A Stark Contrast ~
That incident arrested my attention because it stood in such stark contrast to the confrontational atmosphere that has become so prevalent for the past decade or so. As our technology has advanced, unprovoked rudeness has grown more and more commonplace. Digital trolls lurk everywhere and social media feels less “social” every day. Basic expressions of personal kindness, once a universally honored characteristic of our culture, appear to be vanishing from the public scene, leaving a void desperately needing to be filled. Thankfully, one of the unanticipated outcomes of the pandemic that has gripped our country for months may have spurred a resurgence of that priceless virtue.
Interwoven with redundant reports of new virus cases, supply chain crises, climbing death rates, and people being ordered to stay away from each other, there were other pieces of news. Some people may have been hoarding, but others were sharing what they had. Volunteers were collecting and delivering food and other items to those who couldn’t afford them, or had no way to obtain them. Everything from basic nutritional supplies, to medicine, to protective equipment, and even toys and games for children were gathered and freely dispensed to those in need. Unsung heroes were popping up everywhere, from hard hit urban areas to small rural communities. Unexpected kindness offered by unknown people in unexpected places, in unimagined numbers was erupting all around us. One of those heroes even showed up at our house.
A Roll with a Different Role ~
We were in the midst of the great “toilet paper drought” at the time. You, remember that, too, right? My wife and I had spent most of the day before going from one store to another looking in vain for the precious commodity and came home empty handed. We were reflecting on the peculiar phenomenon that appeared to be growing into a plague of its own when we heard a knock on the door. It was fairly early in the day, at least for us, and we wondered who in the world would be coming to our house at that time in the morning. A guy stood there in a baseball cap smiling at me and hugging a package containing twelve rolls of toilet paper. “We found a big pack the other day and just thought we’d share some of it with you.” As my wife and I smiled and held the simple little gift and hugged each other, I thought about what had just happened. It occurred to me that while I had used the stuff to wipe away tears again and again, I had never had an occasion when it had been the “happy” cause of them. I think that’s the sort of thing the Apostle Paul had in mind when he penned the following admonitions:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Romans 12:9-13 (NKJV)
And then he added this profound conclusion:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NKJV)
Expanded Intentions ~
The underlying root for the word translated “kind” or “kindness” in the New Testament carries the connotation of behavior that is useful and whose objective is to accomplish results that are good. That means that God intended kindness to be more than just a pleasant experience. He meant it to also be productive.
Kindness is not always an effort to make hard things go away. Sometimes it’s just an honest effort to make those difficult things that won’t go away a little easier to deal with. Kindness doesn’t engage in twisting or ignoring truth in order to sound appealing. Rather, it seeks to demonstrate that there’s a quiet permanence to the love that God ordained, and it can’t be blocked out by hard times or eradicated by disastrous events.
Strength, not Weakness ~
Perhaps the shock of this viral plague has served to remind us that kindness in the upside down culture we had grown used to was not being expressed the way God had intended, and wasn’t being granted the place in our lives that He wanted it to have. Kindness has frequently been misconstrued as weakness or even cowardice by those obsessed with power and control, but kindness, as God defines it, is one of the greatest strengths we’ll ever encounter. Our natural tendency when we’ve been hurt or abused by someone, or some system beyond our control, is to either withdraw or to lash out and retaliate. To treat others as we’ve been treated is a normal reaction, but Jesus didn’t call us to be normal, and He didn’t send us to change the world by duplicating its methods.
Kindness is listed among the characteristics of the “fruit” of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22), and as such, it is not achieved by human effort alone. Simple acts can unleash powerful possibilities when we yield to the One who chooses the unlikely, inspires the imperfect, and empowers the unnatural. The least of us may find ourselves demonstrating the very best that human beings have to offer. We never know when God may use a warm smile and, yes, even a roll of toilet paper to express His love in a way that leaves the indelible handprint of Jesus on an ordinary day.
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“Kindness seeks to demonstrate that there’s a quiet permanence to the love that God ordained, and it can’t be blocked out by hard times or eradicated by disastrous events.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“Kindness has frequently been misconstrued as weakness or even cowardice by those obsessed with power and control, but kindness, as God defines it, is one of the greatest strengths we’ll ever encounter.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“… Kindness is not achieved by human effort alone Simple acts can unleash powerful possibilities when we yield to the One who chooses the unlikely, inspires the imperfect, and empowers the unnatural.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
“We never know when God may use a warm smile and, yes, even a roll of toilet paper to express His love in a way that leaves the indelible handprint of Jesus on an ordinary day.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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© 2020 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
Thank you Pastor Ron. Your devotionals are ALWAYS a blessing we miss and love y’all
Well said my friend. Kindness indeed requires great strength and several others listed as fruit of the Spirit. To show kindness in today’s world–especially when unkind thoughts, words, and actions, lash out at you from worldly people and places–require self-control, patience, gentleness, love, joy, inner peace, and yes, a certain amount of faith. Isn’t it amazing how God interconnects the fruit of the Spirit in such a way that we need each of the others to apply just one? Sort of like the way Christ modeled His body (the church). If only, we could learn to use all the others to help us develop better fruit. God’s blessings sir.
This world can certainly use more acts of kindness, especially now. Wonderful reflection, Ron! And I think it’s great that your neighbor brought you that much-needed toilet paper. A true act of kindness and generosity.