Practice Non-Random Acts of Kindness
When my brother became a junior high youth pastor, he didn’t do it alone. Dog-Bear was by his side—or more precisely, on his dash. Matt had purchased the cheap, plastic bobble head at a thrift store some time during college. Applied with duct tape, the bulbous-eyed creature became a conversation starter and spawned a lively debate as to whether it was, in fact, a dog or a bear.
When Matt and his wife, Anna, began junior high ministry at a local church, Kara, a young woman on Matt’s staff, gave the bobble head its name: Dog-Bear. Dog-Bear immediately became a youth group mascot. And more times than not, when Matt pulled into the church parking lot, Kara would run out to give her regards to the scraggly dash ornament.
A couple years into his ministry, Matt decided to sell his run-down Mazda. "Will Dog-Bear be moving?" Kara asked. Each time she saw Matt, she inquired after the bobble head. So one night after youth group, Matt went out to his car, ripped Dog-Bear from the dash and delivered him to Kara’s hands.
Matt was stunned by her reaction. He had no idea the simple gesture would touch his friend so deeply.
Not So Random
You hear a lot about random acts of kindness these days: scraping a stranger’s windshield on a snowy day, paying for the order behind you at Taco Bell, leaving an anonymous note for someone.
I have been on the receiving end of such kindnesses, and they’ve brightened my day. But there are gifts that hold more power and impact than random good deeds. These acts of kindness tell someone that you know them. They communicate that you’ve noticed their needs. They demonstrate that you’ve made a sacrifice on their behalf.
Specific acts of kindness are potent. It shouldn’t surprise us. The Bible talks about God’s favor to us, and our Creator doesn’t show hit-and-run kindness. His kindnesses are extremely precise.
Ephesians 2:6-7 says: "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."
God sending His Son to redeem humanity was the ultimate act of kindness. It recognized our need for a Savior and provided a solution at great personal sacrifice. Such an example raises the bar. It challenges us to move past random to deliberate. The following principles are helpful in discovering meaningful ways to bless others.
Notice details. Take note of the people in your life. What makes them smile? What stresses them out? When might they be in need of extra encouragement?
A specific act of kindness doesn’t have to be a sweeping gesture. Sometimes it may be something very simple—a well-timed word or a well-chosen gift.
One weekend, my out-of-state friend Julie came to visit. One evening we started watching a movie about the life of Audrey Hepburn, one of my favorite actresses. I had recorded the movie off television, and halfway through the recording cut out. I was very disappointed.
Almost a year later I received a package in the mail. Enclosed was a brand new copy of the movie and a note from Julie. "I was at the store," she wrote, "and I saw this and knew you would want to have it." The unexpected gesture meant a lot because it showed that my friend knew me and noticed the little details of my life.
Look for a need. I have been the recipient of many kindnesses that fall into the "bailing out" category. These are instances when I am in a jam, and someone unexpectedly pulls through or does much more than I expected.
Several years ago I was moving to a new apartment. Several friends who had agreed to help me move backed out at the last minute, and I was low on help. As I was in the process of melting down, my friend Deb called. Close to tears, I explained my dilemma.
Deb said, "Don’t worry. I’m at church. I’ll recruit some guys."
An hour later Deb arrived with nine men, three pick-up trucks and a van in tow. I was overwhelmed by the show of generosity. Many of the guys I had never even met, yet they gave up their Sunday afternoon to haul my oak furniture down three flights of stairs. I felt blessed, to say the least. I laughed when I heard the story of how Deb had driven to the restaurant where my church group was having lunch and given a speech on my behalf (evidently a very effective speech!).
I will always remember that day as not only an incredible answer to prayer but an instance where fellow believers were Jesus to me.
Be intentional. Specific acts of kindness require planning and sometimes even research. I have long loved the story of David and Mephibosheth found in 2 Samuel 9. Since becoming king, David has brought the ark of covenant into Jerusalem, conquered a bunch of heathen nations and captured 1,000 chariots. In the midst of all the excitement, he wakes up one day and asks, "Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?"
The sentiment for his deceased best friend’s kin seems to come out of nowhere. David’s servant Ziba tells him about Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth—a crippled young man who is hiding out.
David summons Mephibosheth. But instead of killing this heir to the previous throne, as protocol dictates, David gives Mephibosheth the land that belonged to Saul and invites him to eat at his table for the rest of his life. It’s a true rags-to-riches story.
The thing that stands out to me is David’s intentionality. He didn’t let his busy life of accruing chariots and defeating nations stop him from reaching out to someone who desperately needed his kindness.
Who are the people in your life who need a blessing? Prepare a meal for your pastor’s family. Send a care package to a single mom. Plan a meaningful evening with your spouse.
Be willing to sacrifice. Several months ago I was visiting my grandparents. They are not believers, so I sometimes struggle relating to them. But my grandmother and I have one important thing in common: we share a love of cats. During my visit, she commented on the cute kitty cards I had sent her. "I can never find them!" she said.
Several days later I was at the store when I spotted some darling black and white kitten note cards. It sounds petty now, but I struggled with my selfishness. There was only one box left, and I really wanted to add the cards to my collection. But my grandma’s words were fresh in my mind. Gritting my teeth the entire time, I purchased the cards, placed them in a mailing envelope and dropped them off at the post office.
My grandmother still talks about those cards every time I see her. She was thrilled to receive them. And that action has forged a deeper connection between us. I admit, giving up a $3 set of note cards hardly qualifies as a sacrifice, but it did require laying aside my own desires.
Perhaps a better example would be Kevin, the worship leader at my church, who came in on his day off to lead worship at a small conference I organized. Or my friend Melissa, a talented graphic designer who spent hours designing a professional quality brochure for the event at no cost. Both of these people sacrificed their time to show me kindness through their talents. Whether a sacrifice is big or small, it has the potential to profoundly impact those involved.
Practice kindness. I would like to submit a new bumper sticker with these words: Practice Specific Acts of Kindness.
A random act of kindness, though it may deliver a quick high, has little potential for furthering relationships or building the kingdom. Deliberate acts of kindness, on the other hand, do the good that Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: "Encourage one another and build each other up."
I cannot name the many times I have been spurred on at just the right moment by someone’s exacting kindness. Part of being a blessing to others is being alert to opportunities. If an affirming thought comes into your mind, say it. If you wonder if someone is in need, offer to help. If you find yourself thinking of a person, go a step further and act. A little deliberate kindness goes a long way.
Three years ago, my brother stumbled upon a meaningful act of kindness when he presented Dog-Bear to Kara. He never imagined the impact that meager show of generosity would have. Dog-Bear accompanied Kara to college and back, and continues to hold a place of honor in her home.
Hearing about the experience showed me that every day holds opportunities to bless people if you just pay attention. A seemingly insignificant kindness may have far-reaching effects. Dog-Bear serves as a reminder of the power of a specific act of kindness.
Welcome to Ungrind!
Do you want to be inspired, motivated, and equipped to live the everyday story of your life well?
If so, you’re in the right place. Whether you need encouragement in your relationships or in your faith, I hope you’ll find the transparent voices of mentors and friends here at Ungrind.
So, grab a cup of coffee and keep reading. We're so glad you're here!
Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
Get Our Free Ebook!
5 Ways to Live an Out-of-Control Life
Here are 5 ways to let go of control and trust your present and your future to God.
5 Ways to Teach Your Child to Hear God
Here are practical ways to help your child lean into the voice of God.
6 Critical Questions to Ask Yourself About New Year Resolutions
Here are 6 questions to ask yourself about a New Year's resolution.
14 Christmas Books for Kids
Need some fun Christmas book suggestions to read with your kids? Here are 14 Christmas books for kids that you're...
6 Simple Ways to Give Thanks in the Thick of It
Last week, I had the privilege of speaking to the women in my church. I encouraged them with an acrostic,...
What Not to Say to Someone Grieving a Miscarriage
Here are a few things not to say to someone grieving a miscarriage.
To Those Who Want To Be Truly Happy: Stop Chasing Happiness
Chasing happiness isn't all it's cracked up to be. Here are a few reasons why.
What Women Are Saying
-- Renee Fisher, author of Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me
"Real life is not always pleasant. Every marriage experiences disappointments, misunderstandings, sickness and financial crisis. Ashleigh doesn’t camouflage the pain in her own marriage, and offers practical ideas on how to walk through the difficulties and find intimacy on the journey. If you are anything like me, I predict that as you read, you too will find yourself laughing, wiping tears, and saying 'Oh, yes.'"
-- Gary Chapman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages
We are a member of the Amazon affiliate program and regularly use affiliate links. If you purchase an item from an Amazon link we provide, we will receive a small referral commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. We only share books, music, and products that our writers personally have used and highly recommend.
- Faith7 years ago
When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds
- Motherhood7 years ago
Surviving a Strong-Willed Child
- Faith8 years ago
7 Ways to Create A Family Altar
- Relationships2 years ago
5 Ways to Teach Your Child to Hear God
- Friendship9 years ago
Beyond the Registry: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Expectant Parents
- Everyday Faith3 years ago
6 Simple Ways to Give Thanks in the Thick of It
- Marriage9 years ago
4 Reasons I’m Not Facebook Friends With My Husband
- Articles8 years ago
10 Ways Life is Like a Box of Chocolates
- Articles10 years ago
How to Lift Up the One You Love
- Articles8 years ago
- Digging Into Scripture3 years ago
How the Psalms Speak to Our Emotions
- Relationships4 years ago
Facing Our Motherhood Fears