When my husband Justin was in graduate school, my son Maxwell and I would take frequent "dates" to Starbucks. Sure, he was only one, but we always had a good time together. He would get a whole milk while I sipped on a non-fat latte. Sometimes we’d even splurge and share a scone.
On one of our dates, we bumped into customers I used to serve when I worked at Starbucks a few years back. We reminisced for a few minutes and as they ordered, they kindly offered to treat Maxwell and me. It was a simple gesture, costing them under $10, but nonetheless it made my night. No, it made my week.
In my own life, I find it easy to keep the ball rolling with random acts of kindness toward those I don’t know well—such as this couple’s offer to cover our bill. I have no problem opening a door for someone or offering change to the person in line in front of me who’s short a dime or nickel. But when it comes to the road, I’ve got problems showing kindness to those I don’t know.
I tend to drive Chicago style, which means I’m aggressive, fast, and ruthless. I do my best to obey the law. I try not to speed, use my traffic signals, and follow basic driving rules. Having kids has really helped me to drive more calmly, but when it comes to my driving "manners," I still have room to grow.
If a driver isn’t using simple driving etiquette, is driving too slow, or even dares to cut me off, kindness is not my first response. I usually react by giving them the "What are you dumb?" look, yelling out the name of their car with a "Mr." in front of it, or worst of all, shouting "What is wrong with you? You moron!" For some reason I think they can hear me through my window and theirs. At those times, I wish I had a megaphone strapped to my roof.
Then, as I sit back in my seat and remove my death grip from the steering wheel after my vent session, I look in the rear view mirror and see four little eyes staring at me. A wave of guilt overcomes me. I wonder, What am I teaching my boys? My three-year-old will usually ask something like, "What happened Mom?"
I often want to justify my behavior and tell him, in an angry rant, how rude and inconsiderate the other driver was. But I quickly realize that I’m talking to a toddler, and that even if he were another adult, my behavior was still wrong. Instead, I’m learning to tell him it was wrong of Mommy to get angry and yell, and that it makes Jesus very sad when I shout at people like that. Through this, I’m seeing that as a child of God I’m called to show love and kindness, whether it’s by opening a door for someone or when I’m behind the wheel.
Called to Kindness
I’m seeing more and more that God wants me to show love and kindness to others—including those I don’t know—not to make myself feel good, but to bring glory to Him. In showing love to strangers I’m obeying Christ. I’m remaining steadfast in Him.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is a great reminder that God wants me to be kind to those I don’t know and who won’t repay the favor. The story begins as a man who’s walking down a road is beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Many pass by, not even giving him a second glance, before a man from Samaria finally stops. This man takes care of his wounds, puts him on his donkey, takes him into town, and pays for his expenses at an inn.
For me, this story serves as a challenge to be a more loving, compassionate, merciful person whose heart bursts into action when there is opportunity for me to be kind to others within my reach. Not only that, but it illustrates so well that God desires me to do so even when it’s inconvenient. This requires not simply noticing simple ways to be kind, but actually following through with them.
The Follow Through Matters
Galatians 6:9-10 is a great reminder that as a child of God, I’m not to simply think about being kind, but I need to actually follow through.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
I recently had an opportunity to learn the importance of follow through in my own life. About six months ago some new neighbors moved into our cul-de-sac. I thought to myself, It would be nice if I stopped by the new neighbor’s house to introduce myself and say hello with a plate of homemade cookies.
It was a nice thought, but that was all it ever amounted to. Eventually, about four months after they had settled in, my boys and I were playing in the front yard. It was then that I met the father of five. As we introduced ourselves and talked a bit, I knew I should have made an effort much earlier to be kind to my neighbor with a simple gesture of cookies and a hello to welcome them to our neighborhood. This new family could have quickly gone from strangers to friends if I’d acted sooner.
A simple free latte from an acquaintance made the trip to Starbucks with my son more memorable. It was a small gesture that I’ll never forget. As I go about this week, I hope I too can make others smile by brightening their week with a simple gesture of kindness.