Kindness does little things to meet practical needs. It is thoughtful, caring and acts without thought of being recognized. The need is motivation enough to get involved.
There is a great example of this in the Bible. After being in a dangerous, raging storm at sea Paul and those traveling with him finally discovered an island. The ship crashed in shallow waters and was literally torn apart. Incredibly, everyone survived either by swimming to shore or by riding some of the broken boards from the ship to shore.
They had no idea of who lived there or what kind of treatment they would receive from the natives. These men were cold and wet, exhausted after two weeks of fighting to survive the rough seas, and now facing possible ill treatment from strangers. As soon as they arrived they were surprised by a compassionate, kind people.
“And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold”. (Acts 28:2) Notice the two ways kindness was expressed to Paul and his party. The people made a fire to warm them and they made them feel welcome (“received us” means “to be hospitable and to make one feel welcome”).
These were not difficult or costly actions, but very helpful and important to those in need. Most of the time kindness is not costly to us; at most, it takes attentiveness and a little bit of time.
Jesus exhorted us to not be content with fulfilling the minimum requirement, but to go beyond what is expected and required – “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Matthew 5:41) This referred to the Roman law which allowed a soldier to conscript a Jewish citizen and to carry their equipment and load for one mile. The Jews actually had marked where one mile was from the center of Jerusalem as this happened so frequently.
After doing their duty, they would drop the soldier’s pack and begin to walk back home. Jesus taught us to go beyond what was required and do more. Only love and kindness will motivate us to do that willingly.
This past summer my family was in Virginia staying with some friends. The father of the home, Donnie, was in my youth ministry when I served there in the early 80’s. We have kept in touch with each other through the years. He and his wife kindly allowed four of us to stay in their home.
One morning I came out to our minivan to get something and there was my friend, Donnie, detailing and cleaning our vehicle. Another day, he was repairing one of my doors. We were there for a week and my friend left me with a better running and better looking minivan. That was so kind of him. I knew that he cared for me and loved me.
Another day I was visiting with a pastor friend whom I served with in the area and Donnie’s father found out that I was there and came by the church to see me. He asked for my keys to our vehicle and went and bought four new tires for me. I’m still riding on them! It not only cost him money, but his time to do so. His sacrifice in meeting a need communicated that he loved me and my family. “Charity…is kind…” (I Corinthians 13:4).
Both of these men went the second mile and Paula and I knew they loved us. This is what kindness does. You don’t have to clean or repair a car or buy new tires, but you can do something else for people you care for and love.
Write a note to someone that is discouraged (my wife still carries a special note in her Bible I wrote to her at a very difficult time in her life), do something for your spouse that typically is their responsibility, take your kids on a date to somewhere they enjoy going, buy a surprise gift that someone has wanted. There are so many ways we can be kind to others. It all begins with our being attentive to needs that are already there. God will prompt you on how to customize it for them.
“Kindness is the evidence of greatness. If anyone is glad that you are here, then you have not lived in vain”. (Charles Fenno Hoffman)
I want to make my family, friends, and even strangers, glad that I crossed their path. It’s really not that hard. It’s just takes a bit of time and love.