Sunday, April 5, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness

Okay, sorry folks! More leftovers! This post is from last summer. I wanted to use it as an illustration of Matthew 6:

1"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Pay it forward (or is it Pay it Backwards?)
For me, there has been a significant mind/heart shift since I've been writing this blog and commenting on other blogs. I find myself constantly re-evaluating how I act and react in day to day situations. It's as if once I've typed something and sent it hurtling into cyberspace, it's there for eternity to remind me when I fail to live up to the views I've expounded upon. I may not be able to remember where they all are, but they are no doubt out there somewhere. Such is the case with a comment I made on JML's blog, Very Much Later. JML (Jake) writes a blog that I'm happy to say, I stumbled upon shortly after I started blogging myself. I love the honesty in his writing. He doesn't sugar coat his perspective on being a Christian, and he's able write about his personal walk without talking in "Christianese". Also, he's got some pretty amusing vomit stories.

This particular post was about witnessing to people. Specifically, what I refer to as the "cold call" witness. My comment pertained to how I've never actually been comfortable approaching total strangers and witnessing to them. Instead, I prefer to get to know a person and let them get to know me. If they seem drawn to this intangible thing that's different about me, that's when I'll share my story with them. This is just what feels right to me -- I'm not judging how others share the gospel of Christ. There is one way I'm comfortable witnessing to strangers. I try to find opportunities to practice random acts of kindness. (It's an old bumper sticker, but I still like it.)
A couple of mornings ago, I had a piece of mail that I wanted mailed that day. Since our mail person doesn't typically come until late afternoon, I dropped it in a public mailbox at the nearest shopping center. My son wanted to come with me and get some breakfast at Jack in the Box. As I was waiting in the drive-thru line, I thought, "I should pay for the person behind me." This was appealing to me on many levels: 1) I would be practicing a random act of kindness, 2) I would be teaching my son a valuable lesson about our motives to do good, and 3) it was a fairly easy way to accomplish 1 and 2.
Except that is wasn't easy. My first clue should have been the fact that I had to repeat my order 3 times. The cashier's English was not great. When I pulled up to the window, she gave me my total. I said, "Okay. But I also want to pay for the person behind me." She smiled and said, "Yes, yes okay." Then proceeded to read my order back to me. At this point, there are several cars behind me, and the intended recipient of my random act of kindness was looking impatient. He also looked like he could be a body double for Paul Sr. on "American Chopper". After two attempts to communicate what I was trying to do, she finally got her manager. I still had to repeat it twice. Not because her English was bad, but because apparently, paying for a total stranger's meal is not a common occurrence at this particular eating establishment.

I was finally able to accomplish my original goal. But within that time span of approximately 3 or 4 minutes, several times I wanted to just blow it off and try again another time. But Jesus never said that following Him would be easy. And if everything was easy to attain, then nothing would be worth having. As I was pulling away, I made a conscience effort NOT to look at the truck behind me. But I couldn't help it. I glanced at him just as he was turning his head towards me. I'm not a great lip reader, but I'm pretty sure his way of saying thank you translated into "What the F***!?!" And that was good enough for me...(smile)

I got some really great comments on that particular post, but the one that really stuck was this one:

What a great story! The last line was the best because that's probably exactly what I would have said!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Okay, here's something to make you think, and I in no way mean to take away from the random act of kindness. There have been times in the past when I've done something along those lines and then did what you did. I told people about it because I felt so happy. But should we do that, or just keep it between us and God? Shouldn't it be enough that it makes us feel good, without having to tell our friends and family what we did so THEY would think what we did was good? Did this make ANY sense at all????????????? But wait, I'm talking to the woman who named her blog Look! A chicken! ROFLJustin :o )
She's exactly right. I would love to hear about some random acts of kindness that either you have done, witnessed, or been the recipient of; and I would like you to post them anonymously. Feel free to comment as yourselves otherwise. I am hoping that this will be a way to encourage each other to show the love of Christ in very tangible ways (big and small), spur one another on in good deeds, and give God all the glory in the process.

If anyone else would like to do the same on their blogs, I think that would be great!


Anonymous said...

I once shot a man just to watch him die.

katdish said...

Okay...sorry that was me. Geez, I can't even follow my own direction. Which once again proves I'm not the boss of me.

Also, after re-reading that post, me thinks I sounded just a touch self-righteous. Glad THAT's all past me. (AHEM!)

BeckeyZ said...

I got too much change at the drive-thru at Sonic last year. TEN dollars too much to be exact. I sat there for a moment after the girl gave me my order and I was staring at the bill and when she finally opened the window back up, I handed it back to her and said "umm, you gave me too much change back". I don't know if she was new or what, but she looked a little puzzled and relieved. She said "Oh wow, thank you so much" and I told her (quite honestly, too) "no, don't thank me, I would've kept it, thank Jesus."

I drove away feeling a little dorky, but good. I was honest. I was sorely tempted to drive away, but I didn't, and it had nothing to do with me.

sherri said...

I've been the recipient of so many random acts of kindness that I wouldn't know where to begin.

The ones that were truly "random" (no one Planning to do something for us on their own, but felt God leading them) were usually the ones that had met our needs SPECIFICALLY so there was no doubt as to where the kindness originated. It left us with such hope. And they didn't NEED to say, "God told me to do this..." We already knew it.

He delights in working through his people!

Sometimes the deeds are to be shared, but more often than not, I think it's best to keep them to yourself when you are the kindness giver. "Don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing."It's hard though. Especially when it is exciting.

Just a quick motive check normally lets me know whether it's one to share or not.

JML said...

I had a person swearing the whole way through their testimony the other day, which brought joy to my heart. NOt that they swore, but rather, that they were unrefined but were expressing their appreciation for what God did in their life the only way they knew how. Good Job. If you can make someone blurt out WTF, then you've sowed some seed, and you planted it in soil that needed it!!!!

Koffijah said...

Ummm.... Random Acts of Kindess... yeah, I think there's a book out there called something like "Conspiracy of Kindness" where the author (Vinyard dude, I believe) talks about Christians doing random acts of kindness. I think it is pretty good stuff.

At the same time...

I have often wondered why we think evangelism is something we do with complete strangers. Why should we think we can influence people (towards Christ, towards repentance, or even towards feeling good) who we don't know more than we are able to influence those we do know? Honest question.

When I was in a particular ministry situation once, I tried to get our people to bring new people to our group. Everyone was thinking of ideas to bring people in. After listening to lots of different ideas it hit me that they all had something in common--all of these ideas were trying to get people we didn't know--people in general who we haven't ever met--to come. No one offered any ideas about just bringing their non-Christian friends or other people they knew in work and school. It was like, "Well, I know them and I know they wouldn't want to come." Really? We decided to have a "friend night" where people just brought their friends--someone they already knew. It was a tremendous success! We found out, whether we realized it or not, that we have more *real* influence on people we know than on people we don't know. Which kind of makes sense, you know.

I think reaching people we know can be more difficult that reaching people we don't know IF we ourselves are basically jerks. Then, the people we know have already figured it out and aren't going to be interested in whatever we're trying to share. People we don't know, however, haven't yet been exposed to our "jerkiness" and so might not be automatically disinterested... yet. But for those of us (like Katdish) who are not jerks--but are very kind and friendly people in general--then people who know us *will* know there is something different about us and will be more effected when we want to share with them.

You know that whole 7 degrees to Kevin Bacon deal? Well, if we were successful in reaching (or even blessing) people we know--they could in turn reach/bless people we don't know, and by the time it reaches "7 degrees" then we will have gotten to everyone in the community.

I don't mean to be a party-pooper. I just see that we are a society that seems to be moving more are more down the road of personal isolationism and anonymity. We have "controlled" social contact with others. We have personal privacy. We seem to be moving further and futher away from community living, and it allows us to have all kinds of duality (I'm one person in public and another in private--or--In my controlled exposures of myself I do good things to others, but in my private life I commit all kinds of sin and am addicted to pornography). The internet *really* allows us to do this even more than before. We would be healthier creatures if we didn't value our privacy so much and learned to let others in.

And here I am posting anonymously.

Koffijah said...

Sorry for writing so much. (BTW, Katdish.... I have something to ask you privately but I don't know how to do it. Can you leave your e-mail in a comment on my blog? Since I moderate my comments it will never get posted. But I will e-mail you... and in the process you'll learn my true identity... and ask you my question).

But on to more commenting (it's like a book)...

Just thinking about what I said in reference to what Jesus said about not letting your right hand know what youre left hand is doing when it comes to doing thing for others...

I have been the recipient of anonymous financial gifts before. And I think it is great. I mean, those things have really helped me at times when I needed help. So, I think giving people things anonymously is a good thing when we want to try to avoid getting "credit" for doing something good. It helps us to not become prideful, which is important.

At the same time... I think influencing people towards Christ takes more than anonymous gifts. In fact, I don't think it would be wrong to give something to someone, letting them know it was you giving it, and then keeping it between the two of you. It still prevents the "announcing it with trumpets" dynamic that Jesus warned about because no else who is not a part of the deal will ever know. (But nothing prevents pride--we can still be prideful in our own hearts even if we do things 100% anonymously.)

But I think that in addition to helping people (anonymous or not) we should offer them a relationship with us (I don't mean romantic--I mean friendship). Nothing says "I love you" more than being a friend with someone and wanting to spend time with them.

"I just want to hang out with you." Powerful.

Anonymous said...

Someone once gave me $1000.


I picked up some stuff for a party for him and he asked me how much he owed me. I couldn't remember. It was $20-$30 I wasnt sure so I just said "Oh, give me whatever, I don't care." because I really don't care.

Two days later he gave me $1000 and thanked me for telling him he could give me whatever he wanted. He had been waiting for the opportunity to bless me financially.

I said "Thank you" and tried not to cry.

I mean, what's the appropriate protocol for something like that?

P.S. is it truly anonymous if it links to my blog?

Anonymous said...

I used to like to add quarters to random meters. That was before it took 14 quarters for one hour around here.

I will never forgot the time a drunk was bothering me on the bus, and a young man kept him from following me off of the bus. I always thought of that man as an angel sent by God. Okay, maybe he was as mortal as me, but he was still a Godsend.

BunBun said...

Sometimes people leave carrots or lettuce for me in their yard during the winter.
I bring them joy by scampering freely through their yard all year long.....

katdish said...

I'm going backwards in responding to comments cuz sometimes that's how I roll...

BunBun - I deleted your previous comment forever, so you true identity will remain secret.

Anon #2 - Probably just someone doing the right thing. How sad that's the exception rather than the rule. But I'm glad he was there for you.

Anon #1 - You must have bought some wicked awesome party favors! I loved that story. How cool.

KJ - I agree about witnessing to people we know. I am excited about inviting friends and neighbors to C3 because (and this sounds a bit horrible - sorry) I don't feel that I'll ever need to apologize for or explain anything they might experience with us, as has been the case in the past. My point was not to ONLY do random acts of kindness, but I believe that how we treat others, strangers and otherwise, can be a huge witness and open lots of doors for a more intimate conversation with them. I appreciate your honesty, and if you ever read anything from me that smacks of self righteousness or "wrongness" I fully expect you to call me out on it. (Even if you doing so will probably make me cry.)

Jake - You should read "No Perfect People Allowed" by John Burke. Lots of stories like that. It would have brought joy to my heart as well; and for the same reason.

Sherri - do you find that being the recepiant of the act is exponentially harder than being the giver? I know I do, and I know it is a pride issue that I continue to struggle with.

Beckey - Dorky is good. Love that.

Me - Oh, grow up!

Koffijah said...

You're cool, girl.