“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness that I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again” (Stephen Grellet.1773–1855)
If there is one thing that we all crave for and something that we all react to, that thing is kindness. It makes the world go round, so they say. It is an action that can make our day, or by its omission make us irritable or depressed. Yet kindness, for all its effect, is one of the most uncomplicated actions available to us.
Recently, whilst driving in heavy traffic, I paused to let a lady motorist feed into a lane after she had obviously waited a long time for a break in traffic. She waved and smiled in appreciation of what was, for me, a small act kindness and a few seconds delay. As I followed her she did the same thing for another motorist some distance ahead. Who knows where this insignificant act may have had its ending.
One day we had a heavy piece of furniture delivered. The guy was very helpful and the next day we rang to thank him again. This was the first time that anyone has bothered to ring and thank me, he said. It obviously made his day and I have no doubt that his pleasure at this small act of appreciation and kindness was mirrored in his activities and contacts that day.
The Apostle Paul was very mindful of the importance of kindness. When writing to the church at Ephesus he explained that whilst salvation is God’s free gift it carries an obligation to live and behave as God wants. This calls for truth and honesty; no spite or bitterness – instead kindness and a readiness to forgive. And Paul wrote that letter from prison in circumstances where acts of kindness would have been rare. The Thessalonians were also commanded to ensure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but should always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
Kindness – a simple word with the considerable power to affect others; the dictionary describes it as sympathetic, considerate, good, benevolent and gentle. It is all those things, but as Paul said, it is living and behaving as God wants. It is a state of mind. It’s the small acts of kindness that so greatly touch our lives.
Helen Good Brenneman, well-known devotional writer, speaks of the need of kindness: “There was once a man who had a heart transplant but the operation was a total failure. For the man was a mean man and the heart was a kind heart. His body simply rejected it. The Bible tells us, however, of a heart transplant that was successful. ‘And I will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take out the stony heart. I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them. And they shall be my people and I will be their God.'” (Ezekiel 11:19-20)
Make someone’s day – there will be a million opportunities. And be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.