Surprised by Kindness

  • Surprised by Kindness
Surprised by Kindness

I was in my third year of university and I was assigned to write an article where I interviewed real people. All I had to do was choose a theme and find sources to interview about it. Simple right? Write about anything and interview whomever you want.

Not so simple. I had no idea what to write about. And worse still, my professor dismissed all my ideas so I started from scratch each and every class. For weeks this continued until I was instructed to “Just pick something from your list and go with it.”

So I did. I chose Acts of Kindness. Beside the topic my professor had written “Not strong.” But what else could I do? I had no more ideas and no more time.

Although I hadn’t seen the movie Pay it Forward I don’t doubt the concept sparked my interest in the topic. And as I dug into the topic I discovered acts of kindness can change a person’s life. I spoke with people who had experienced kindness when they needed it most, and people who had built their lives on the concept of showing kindness to others. Their stories were inspirational, and I also noticed the people who had received the acts of kindness seemed surprised they had been treated so well.

Acts of kindness are fascinating. They don’t make any sense, which makes them all the more interesting. Why this person, why this action, why this moment?

For me part of the attraction is because the person benefitting from the act probably didn’t deserve it. He or she was the 100th customer, the first person to say a random keyword, or was just in the right place at the right time. And the outcome? Much of the time the person is surprised, delighted, and overwhelmed. And the kind person? That person must feel pretty good to have made a total stranger’s day.

Chuck Swindoll tells a moving story about an act of kindness in his sermon Loving What’s Kind. A cab driver picks up a woman who moved slowly and asked him to take the long way around to her destination. The driver took the time to ask her why. She explained she had no family and was headed to a hospice. She wasn’t expected to live much longer. In the moment the driver decided to spend the day with this woman, and not charge her a fare.

I love this story because it reminds me I don’t know the whole story. It’s so easy to make assumptions and judgments about others’ motives and actions when I have no right to. What if instead of assuming the worst I choose to be kind? What if I decide to be the person who makes a total stranger’s day?

Since hearing this story I’ve wondered what if I was the person to pick up this woman. Would I have bothered to look beneath the surface? Why is it so hard to remember to be kind?

Here are some reasons Chuck says we aren’t kind.

  • Kindness takes extra time and we’re all in a hurry
  • Kindness makes us put ourselves in someone else’s place and we’re all selfish (it doesn’t come naturally or easily)
  • Kindness calls for compassion and we are by nature preoccupied and intense
  • Kindness occasionally includes forgiveness but it’s so much easier to hold a grudge

If I’m honest the reason I am not kind is because I’m wrapped up in myself. Most of the time I’m so focused on how I feel and how other people impact me I don’t even notice the opportunities to be kind presenting themselves every day.

Kindness is a quality God wants everyone to exhibit (Micah 6:8; Matthew 7:12). And there are more benefits than the good feeling of making someone’s day. Matthew 25:31-40 reminds me every time I am kind to someone who is overlooked or ignored I am also being kind to God. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.