Self-absorption is the antithesis of kindness. When we exhibit a good-natured response to someone it is because we are aware of them and want to affirm their presence and worth. Conversely, when we are "into" ourselves, our iPhones, our agendas, or our own schedules, we naturally overlook the need to enter someone else's world with an acknowledging glance, nod of the head, a greeting of affirmation or a pat on the back . One of the most genuine acts of kindness is to engage sales clerks in conversation outside of the usual bargainer's banter:"on what aisle are the toothbrushes located?....are the items on the end-cap still on sale?...did you know there is a spill on aisle seven?" Observing the clerk's body language and facial expressions are invaluable in delivering small doses of hope or encouragement. One day while hurrying to pick up a few items from the local Wal-Mart, I glanced at the "associate" as she was wringing her hands and grimacing. I pushed my cart to her counter and softly asked if her hands were hurting her. She nodded her head in the affirmative and began to explain that she suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome. "Would you mind if I prayed for you?" Without hesitating, she replied, " No, I don't mind." In return I inquired,"May we pray here and now?" Again, without missing a beat, she bowed her head as I took her hands and began to pray in the Name of Jesus. Both of us were teary-eyed as the power of the Holy Spirit suspended time and space; we were connected in a bond of kindness that was both comforting and surprising. For a few moments there was an uncanny exchange of spiritual energy that united us, even though we were strangers, in some sort of Holy communion of His compassion. I completed my purchases and left the store. The next week, I read in the local paper that the long-time Wal-Mart employee, whom I had prayed for, was killed in a motorcycle accident just a few days after our encounter. I felt a deep sense of loss.
Strangley, random acts of kindness are sometimes easier to accomplish with total strangers than with the members of our own households. However, we need to remember grandmother's instructions, "Charity begins at home." When a family member replies harshly, a soft answer will truly turn away wrath and bring peace to a stormy spiritual atmosphere. Picking up dirty socks, tossed aside jackets and empty tea glasses (without murmuring or complaining) also qualifies as authentic acts of kindness. The true test of a life laid down is service to others, operating incognito; preferring others above oneself without acclaim or accolades.
Consider: acts of kindness are not financially costly, neither are they high in caloric content, but they yield extravagantly rich returns and leave a delightfully delicious taste in your soul. Amen.