The definition of Kindness: The joy of meeting someone else’s needs before your own, or simply for the sake of the relationship.
One of the steps of learning to express kindness is to observe act is of kindness. Have you ever done any kind of pay it forward activity? You know what I am talking about…paying for the car behind you at the drive-thru, not knowing what they ordered, or leaving a roll of quarters at the laundry mat with a note saying God bless. Maybe you witnessed someone handing out blankets and sandwiches out to the homeless. These are all Random Acts of Kindness. If you have never been a part of this kind of activity, you should definitely try it out! It is quite invigorating and makes you feel so fulfilled.
I remember being in Hannibal, MO with Richard for our anniversary one year. Hannibal has always been a favorite place of ours to spend a weekend retreat. Lots to do, and plenty of outdoors events to take in. We stopped into Hardees, one of my I favorite places to eat–hot ham and cheese with mayo, lettuce, and onion! The best ever! As we sat down to eat our meal, we noticed an elderly lady sitting over by the window all alone eating. She seemed to be just staring out the window in bewilderment, as if she was wondering what the world had in store for her life. I knew that God was drawing me to her, I just didn’t know how she would feel about me walking up to her and saying “Excuse me, my name is Jeannie and I just wanted to tell you that my husband and I were sitting over there eating and I felt that God was telling me to come and sit with you. May I join you?”
So I said those exact words to her and waited for her to look up and acknowledge. A few seconds passed for what seemed an eternity, and then she reached out and grabbed my arm and raised her scarf covered head and I noticed she was crying. She said to me, “Hello, Jeannie, my name is Mary and I have been coming here for lunch every Saturday for over 20 years. Up until 3 weeks ago my husband Albert and I used to come here together.” I said “Oh how sweet. My husband and I do everything together. It drives everyone around us crazy but we press on because we love each other.” She proceeded to tell me, “Three weeks ago my husband passed away; I guess from old age because he was as healthy as a horse, and I miss him so much. I have continued to come here every Saturday and eat lunch and I will until I am unable to. You see, my husband had a job that was very demanding and we didn’t see each other of most of our 63-year marriage. Saturday’s were our only time together. We didn’t have any children and most of our other family is gone. You are the first person to come up to me and show me any kindness at all. I want you to know how much I appreciate that. You are an angel sent from God.”
She went on to say that I should not care what others thought of our love and to cherish every minute of our lives together. Don’t ever take any of it for granted, because one day it may be gone. Show each other every day that we love each other. Tell each other that we love each other everyday.
We sat and talked to her for about 30 minutes or so and she was so thrilled just to have someone to talk to. We exchanged phone numbers, but I never heard from her again. I tried to call her phone and it was disconnected. She was so broken-hearted about his death that I pictured her dying of a broken heart. And for her that may have been a blessing. She was so lonely. And our one little act of kindness may have been the difference between her despair and happiness.
There were people all around us looking at us and at first it did feel a little awkward. Then as I sat there talking to her, I saw how her face lit up just to be able to talk to someone while she ate, something she hadn’t done since her husband had died. Soon, everyone in the restaurant had disappeared and it was just her and I sitting there enjoying each other’s company. It was one of the sweetest moments I have experienced in my life. Although I do not know what happened to Mary, I know that in that one moment in time, she knew that someone cared. She knew that God cared. She could see the Jesus in my all because I followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit to show a simple act of kindness.
So how do you take that leap of faith and show others kindness? Well, first, you have to recognize a number of things. You must be able to see the needs of others; you have to be able to look past their shortcomings, and see their value. Not their value in what they can provide you….but their value as a human being. Now hear me when I say this. NOT their value to society; NOT their value in their job; NOT their value as a parent; NOT their value with how much money they have…..but instead look at their value as a human being. What about them makes them valuable. Not valuable to you or anyone else….but valuable to God. Plainly put…you MUST be vested in their happiness. You have to be invested in their needs. If you walk around only thinking of yourself, you will be unable to express kindness unconditionally.
Let’s face it. When it comes to kindness, most of us have to admit we could use a little attitude adjustment. Most of the time we are only kind when there is something in it for us. ‘I’ll be kind to you if you are kind to me’ attitude. In order to have this kind of love and kindness for others, we need a change in attitude. So how do we be kind to others when someone is a stranger, or more difficult still, when we know them and they have treated us harshly.
Now I am not saying to use kindness to manipulate people. In that case it would probably be better to just keep kindness to yourself. You wil only do harm to them and yourself. But when you see how kindness can change a person, you may become more eager to be kind. Kindness is a choice. A choice you have to make every day. When I choose to be kind, I feel better. When you wake up bitter and upset everyday, it is harder to be kind. It is kind of the same concept as choosing joy. If you choose joy, you will be joyful.
When you choose to be kind to all people, not just the ones who are kind back, not all kindness will be accepted. If we are kind to someone, and that person reciprocates kindness, then we can usually have a meaningful relationship together. If they reject our acts of kindness, we can only show more them more kindness and hope that our acts will change their minds and turn towards us instead of running away. In the latter example, the more we show them kindness, the more they will want to experience it and will eventually turn towards us and begin to emulate our actions.
How can we emulate kindness? Here are a few examples of little things we can do to show others kindness:
1. Use positive words when speaking to others. Do the words we speak to others build them up, or tear them down. The words we speak to others have more of an impact on their lives than we can imagine. Telling someone they CAN’T do something is much different then telling them “you have my support no matter what the outcome is”.
2. Affirming Words. Kind words affirm who people are and what they do. I will share a story with you about my daughter who is in college. She was worried about an exam that she was sure she would fail. She studied and studied and worried more each day as the exam drew closer. She needed a 60% to pass this particular exam. The day came, I was at work and she text me and told me that she got a 66% on it. I said “well at least you didn’t fail it”. When she texted her dad he said to her, “That is great! You passed it.” She was so excited with his approval and disappointed in my perceived “dis-approval”. We both said virtually the same thing, however mine was perceived in a nonapproving way, and his in an uplifting way. I did not use affirming words to describe that I was pleased that she had passed.
3. Truthful words: Be sure to speak the truth to people. The challenge is to be truthful and kind at the same time. We must learn to speak out of love. Listen to yourself when you speak. Are the words you are speaking out of love. For instance…”I love you because you are my husband” is much different from “it is because you are a precious gift from God given to me, that I love you”. Both are truthful, but the latter is more loving.
What do you think your life would be like if you saw in every encounter with another person as an opportunity to express kindness? What if you decided not to only be kind on pleasant days but also on difficult days? What if you always looked for opportunities to affirm the value of another human being?
I want to challenge you this week to try one of the following:
1. Try to visualize every person you meet as having value beyond measure. Not to you, but to society.
2. Choose a day this week and record ALL acts of kindness that you witness throughout that day. Keep it simple, what the act was and who did it.
3. At least two mornings this week think of five opportunities you might have in the day ahead to express kindness to someone in words or actions.
4. Practice hearing yourself talk. After each verbal encounter, ask yourself, What did I say that was kind? What did I say that was unkind?
Kindness can change a person’s life. Yours, and theirs.