It was the summer of 1983, home between semesters of my seminary days, I was standing behind the counter of my father’s fast food restaurant, when a small boy reaching his arm up, releases a fist full of coins onto the counter. The smile on his face could melt any Dairy Queen blizzard. Raising his eyes to mine, he simply stated “A vanilla cone please.” Looking at the coins still rolling on the counter, I knew he didn’t have enough. Taking my index finger, I began to count the silver and a few copper. When there was none left to be counted, the boy’s face grew very solemn. He too knew it wasn’t enough. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a couple more coins and placed them along side his own.
His response shocked me. With a suspicious look, he again reached forward and began to pull his coins away. I told him, it was ok. He now had enough. I tried to match the tone in my voice with that of the kind gesture. With a slight pause as if struggling against his better judgment, his smile returned, and I quickly scooped the coins away and proceeded to make him the LARGEST ‘small’ cone I have ever made complete with a curly-Q top. That moment impacted me, and has never been forgotten.
Suspicious kindness, sad isn’t it. We often are not used to receiving kindness, our first reaction is … pause .. question the motive …then refusal, worried that there HAS to be something wrong, or WAIT, what do you want in return? Our society has become so ‘ME’ oriented, that to think then act on behalf of another with goodness takes great concentration, not to mention ‘risk.’ For some, to be kind is a sign of ‘weakness.’ DUDE! Sad.
St. Paul speaks directly to the qualities that do NOT (notice the ‘NOT’) come naturally to us, “Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, PUT ON heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…” (Col. 3:12, emphasis mine) we are not born with them, they are a CHOICE. A day-to-day, moment by moment choice. We slip our arms into the garment and wear it, we wear …HIM, Jesus.
Kindness is the softer side of creation, the God in us peaking through with love, and mercy. It is described by scholars that kindness is the inner heart attitude of tenderness, gentleness, then goodness takes over and acts on the heart attitude. I see it in the word picture of one walking by a blind man, holding a charitable cup for money. The HEART sees the man, the heart feels the man, the heart responds with God to the man, filling his cup. Love, kindness and goodness all go together. Love sees, kindness feels, goodness does, read that again. (see also: 1 Cor. 13, Eph. 4:29-31) I might add, that in one of Paul’s ‘lists’ (oh how he loved his lists) Gal. 5:22-23, he shares the ‘Fruit’ of the Spirit, notice it is ‘singular’, it is not ‘Fruits‘, he admonishes us to walk in the ‘package deal’ of Jesus. Picture if you will, someone has just delivered a most fabulous fruit basket and sets in in front of you, individual delicious items, but all in the basket as one gift. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” ALL evidence of Jesus.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, a leading Jewish Theologian had this to say about kindness, “When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people, as I grow old, I admire kind people.” TRUE Godly kindness does not require a return on your investment. It is self-less-ness. We see, we feel, we do.
What is the opposite of kindness? Severity, cutting something or someone short or quick, in that we do NOT see THEM! We do not feel them or do for them. We see, feel, do only for ourselves. (ouch!)
May we all be challenged to be kind beyond ourselves. Spreading some Sonshine, with wonderful bouquets of gentleness. Remembering that WE have been bathed in God’s kindness and goodness. Taking an extra moment to listen. Find more coins in our pockets, open more doors, whatever is needed at the moment. Like the little boy with ice cream at the counter, he now has ENOUGH! God uses US in the ‘enough’ equation.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds” ~ Heb. 10:24)