I have had the time of my life in the last year and a half doing random acts of kindness, offering friendly smiles and small gifts. It’s like a secret source of joy most people don’t know about! In our human way, we believe that focusing more on ourselves will satisfy our desire for love and happiness, but it does not and cannot! Come with me as I show you a new gift I’ve been given, the gift of kindness.
Kindness is rare. It takes people by surprise! At first they’re not sure what to think. What do you want? But when they see you only want to see them smile and show them the love you’ve been given, get ready for a lottery-winning smile. Get ready for heart-warmed smiles from those who stand as witness. Get ready for an unexpected joy to bubble up in your own heart and a tear in your eye. Because giving truly is better than receiving.
The rarity of kindness
Is it just me or are people growing angrier? This year I’ve been witness to strangers yelling at each other in stores —one because someone turned down an aisle at Target first, and another because someone’s child was crying and a woman told the man he was a horrible dad. I’ve seen people yelling at each other from the car, a man on a bike furious that a car was over the crosswalk, people berating cashiers, rolling eyes at each other, screaming at customer service on the phone … I know you’ve seen it too. It’s everywhere. Kindness is a rarity these days.
Where does the hate come from? I think a lot of it comes from our generation’s promotion of self-focus, self-care, self-importance, self everything! We’re so concerned about what we want, how to get it and when we’ll get it that we become incapacitated to see or care about the needs of those around us. True love means putting others before ourselves.
This dark world is despairing, but it makes Jesus’ light shine all the brighter.
Jesus was radical. He told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Think about that. I know you’ve heard it before, but what does it look like to truly love your neighbor as you do yourself? He wasn’t done though, he told us to love our enemies too! We are called to love those who persecute us, even pray for them! Do you have any enemies? Pause and think how profound this is.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:32-36
The irony of life is that I started writing this post yesterday and last night our literal neighbor called Marcello to complain that Marcello’s dad vacuuming the car was too loud. Get behind me, Satan! Haha! Just kidding. No, I’m not. This stuff happens all the time when I write faith posts. Satan wants me to second guess what the Lord has taught me, and I think God allows it sometimes to help me apply what I’ve learned. It’s one thing to have head knowledge, it’s another thing to let it enter your heart and live it out.
Sometimes it’s easier to be nice to strangers than those in our own family. This post is focused on strangers, so I’ll save my thoughts on loving difficult people and enemies for another day.
The training of kindness
Last year I did this grateful project with my kids. The goal was to do at least one kind thing a month together. I started it because I wanted to teach my children to be grateful. A serving heart is a grateful heart. The Bible knows what it’s talking about, psychological studies show there is a direct connection between kindness, thankfulness and happiness. A grateful person can make a difference! A grateful person puts on armor against jealousy, anxiety and fear. When you’re grateful, you’re honoring God.
And we are still doing the project. They kids have benefitted greatly from it. When Adriano sees someone standing asking for money, he tells me to turn around. When Luca sees trash by the side of the road, he wants to pick it up. When I pray, Clara drops to her knees and prays with me. It’s true, they’re learning to have servants’ hearts, but the most significant change of all has been done in my own heart.
I’ve shared with you before that I don’t consider myself a naturally generous person, but anyone can be taught. We can teach our children to be kind and generous, and we can retrain our own minds to be kind and generous.
There are two things I would like you know about me as you read this post. First, acts of kindness are hard to share here because I don’t think we should ever show love to strangers to boast, for recognition (though I have been guilty of this) or in expectation of something in return. It should be all the same to us to do it anonymously and know only God sees us. We will be rewarded in Heaven, for that is where our treasures truly lie.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Secondly, I decided to share some of these things for inspiration and to share my joy! What if you thought that I only went on spending freezes so I could buy more home decor, or that all God’s blessings on my family stopped with us? I am sharing these things to shine a light on Jesus, who has done these things through me. Without him I am a selfish, hoarding wretch.
Instead, I have a wellspring of love and it comes from the Father. He has loved me so fully and perfectly that my heart is overflowing and spills out onto others. I love because I have been loved. (1 John 4:19)
The joy of kindness
At first I basically only did the one kind thing a month with my kids, but the joy that rippled around those actions compelled me to do more. Some acts were bigger, but most were smaller. It has become a new mentality for me to try to make someone feel loved or encouraged every time I leave the house.
You can make a huge impact on someone’s day by telling them they are doing a good job, complimenting or helping a mother, telling someone’s boss they are doing a terrific job, even a smile seems unexpected and uplifting these days!
The most impactful experience I have had with a stranger was last year on the way to my grandmother’s funeral. I hadn’t flown without kids since they were born, so I was willing and prepared for God to use me. I was all prayed up and had a Jesus Calling book in my purse, ready to hand it to someone who needed to know Jesus loves them.
I sat expectantly in the waiting area of the small airport, looking around and waiting for someone to sit beside me. And then she did. I waited for a conversation starter, as to make sure I had the right person, and she complimented my shoes. We got to talking and she told me with tears in her eyes that she was on the way to her husband’s funeral. I shared that I was on the way to a funeral as well, and it turned out they were on the same day.
She told me she had never flown without her husband and the woman that was supposed to sit with her and help her find her gate and seat had to leave suddenly. I looked at her ticket and assured her she was at the right gate and explained how the boarding zones worked. I told her I would wait with her and make sure she went up at the right time. She was overwhelmingly grateful.
I pulled out the small devotional book from my purse and asked if she would like to have it. She was delighted! She boarded before me, and when I walked past her row she waved excitedly at me and said, “He has one too!” as she pointed to the man beside her. There have been few times in my life I have felt as fulfilled as I did in that moment, knowing that God had used me to show her his love, that she was in his hands and he would take care of her. I felt God’s love for her.
I’ve also taken to carrying gift cards in my purse and keeping Bibles and books in my car — about marriage, heaven and devotionals. I hand a gift card and book to people with cardboard signs. I make sure they know it is from God and that he loves them dearly. You can read about the first time I did it here. It was life-changing.
You could buy flowers or chocolates and give them to a stranger who appears downtrodden. You could give a gift certificate to someone working a minimum wage job. I have even begun to budget for these random acts of kindness. Pray about it, empty yourself and get ready to have have so much fun doing it!
The power of kindness
When I’m overcome by evil acts, such as the woman yelling at the man that he was a horrible father, I pray for her. I still pray for her. She said that she had cancer and that it’s people like him and his son that gave it to her, through stress. I know it wasn’t an accident that I was literally standing right in between the strangers hurling nasty insults and stomach-turning words. It was so I would remember and pray for her. And him. It was clear neither of them knew Jesus — or at least weren’t living by his words. That day I wasn’t going to bring a smile to either of their faces, but I can make a difference doing battle in prayer.
We cannot overcome evil with evil. Throwing retaliation at a vile action that has offended us leaves us isolated with anger, desperation and evil. It will never fulfill you to repay hate with hate. You won’t revel in revenge as you may have dreamed. As difficult as it might be in the moment, responding to evil with love can bring light and change. Jesus has called us to be his light in this world. (Matthew 5:14-16) It will set us apart.
Follow me on this, it’s important:
He said our greatest commandments are to love our God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22). When we love others, Jesus said we are loving him and he will reveal himself to us (John 14:21). When we move toward others, he moves toward us.
We are all more influenced, vulnerable and interconnected than we care to admit or even know. You can make a difference in someone’s day today!
Kindness. It’s radical. It’s powerful. It’s joyous. It’s contagious.
Has a stranger done something kind for you? What random acts of kindness are your favorites? What would happen if we all did one kind thing for a stranger every day?
I also wanted to say a big thank you to those of you who have reached out to me in the last few weeks with encouragement on my faith posts. It helps me and inspires me more than you know!
I wish I could tell you that I can’t wait to write them and share Jesus with the world, but sometimes I’m hesitant. Sometimes I get emails from people who are mad at God. Sometimes I don’t want to share something special between God and I (and sometimes I don’t). Sometimes I don’t want the enemy on my back. And all of the time I get unsubscribers.
Last week when I wrote about 8 reasons you don’t go to church, I knew I was tapping on a touchy subject, but felt a quiet voice asking me to write. I was nervous about it, but I wanted to be obedient. I asked God if he could show me a glimpse of why he wanted me to write it. The next day I got a comment from someone in Korea telling me the article gave them strength and encouragement. God answered my prayer and showed me how much bigger his plan is than mine.
Thank you and stay in touch with me! My favorite thing about blogging is connecting with new people from all over the world.