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In the summer of 1983, between semesters of my seminary days, I was standing behind the counter of my father’s fast food restaurant when a small boy reached his arm up and released 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 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 alongside 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 okay. 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 is sad, isn’t it? We often are not used to receiving kindness and our first reaction is to pause, question the motive, refuse, worry that there has to be something wrong and wonder what they 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.
St. Paul speaks directly to the qualities that do 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). 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, God in us speaking through with love and mercy. 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. (See also: 1 Cor. 13, Eph. 4:29-31.)
I might also add that in Gal. 5:22-23, Paul shares the fruit of the Spirit, and he admonishes us to walk in the “package deal” of Jesus. Picture if you will, that 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 said 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.
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. Finding more coins in our pockets, opening 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.
DeDe Southwick, is the mother of two wonderful sons and lives outside of Portland, Oregon. She has a degree in Theology, leads women’s bible studies, and has served on the leadership team of her local church. She loves studying God’s Word, gardening, and making her sons laugh. You can read her blog here.