I went searching for the diaper bag in a frenzy, because there was a diaper emergency to tend to. My baby boy had just gotten back from staying with his aunt and uncle (our first separation!) and my daughter was back from her grandma’s. I had not gotten anything put away, so I was scrounging around all of the bags in a hurry. Diaper emergencies involving eight-month old boys are nothing to mess around with. I needed those wipes and quickly!
I noticed an envelope with my name on it in one of the bags with the diaper supplies, so I paused (diaper emergency notwithstanding) to see what the contents were. A photograph of a beautiful yellow flower fell out and the writing it on it caught my eye immediately; baruch haba b’shem Adonai. It is a Hebrew phrase that is basically translated “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. There were three beautiful photographs in that envelope and all three photographs contained a Hebrew phrase. I use certain Hebrew phrases when I pray and I had just been teaching a couple of them to my sister-in-law. She had taken the photographs in South Africa, fixed them up with Hebrew, and printed them out so the envelope would be in the bag when the kids got home.
I was stunned in the best possible way and I even started crying (you might as well get used to tears of all kinds over here). It wasn’t until the stench of the diaper emergency caught up to me that I remembered what I was supposed to be doing. I was transfixed on the sensation that the Lord used someone to say, “Good morning, beloved.”
And, I needed it right then. Oh, how I needed it.
As the holiday season is approaching, I have been thinking of all the ways to extend acts of kindness with small gestures. There are so many people out there who will be haunted by family dysfunction, bad memories, financial issues, stress, and loneliness during this time of year. I know that, because I have been there. I have spent some holidays all alone.
One Christmas, I stayed in a dark house save for the flashing white lights on the skinny tree in the corner. The ornaments had kept falling off and the tree reminded me of Charlie Brown, but if I was going to be alone on Christmas I was going to at least have lights and a tree for crying out loud! I lived where it was warm and palm trees were decorated and Santa’s wore shorts and sunglasses. I positioned myself at my open front door to watch the neighborhood lights from the darkness of my own home (save for those flashing white lights on that Charlie Brown tree with the ornaments that kept falling off).
I was haunted by the sound of car doors opening and slamming shut, as if being kept in time by a metronome. People were coming and going, coming and going. There were arms full of gifts, smiles, hugs, and laughter being passed around. The houses were lit up on the outside and the inside where all of the people were coming and going, coming and going. The neighborhood was quite cookie-cutter with the houses sharing the same faded salmon stucco and Spanish-style roofing, but the voices, smiles, and gift wrappings were all unique. I was feeling like quite the lonely spectator, watching a world I was not a part of.
I finally locked up my house, turned off the flashing white lights on my Charlie Brown tree, and I didn’t even bother to hang the ornaments back up. Instead, I kicked them toward the corner and sighed.
I ended up hunkered down on the couch for an independent film marathon in my living room. I spent my Christmas night with Hedwig from the Angry Inch and Hedwig had probably suffered more loneliness, confusion, and dysfunction than myself. I sang along to the songs and got lost in the angst, feeling a whole lot less alone, even if I was by myself with ornaments littering the floor.
During the holiday season some people get bitter, angry, depressed, isolated, and frustrated. The rush for presents, the financial gymnastics, and the weight of making plans or lacking plans is on everyone’s mind. Some people are even strapped with the burden of trying to figure out where they will sleep or if they will even get a hot meal.
This might be the time of year when people actually need to see more smiles or acts of kindness, even if they did just snap at you and growl, “Bah humbug!”
We truly do not know the burdens others are carrying; some are suicidal, some have been, others are self-medicating, some are missing someone, even more are from a broken family, people are estranged, others are sick, another handful are dying, and there could be extreme soul wounds clawed into someone’s heart.
We never know why that lady just snapped at the grocery store clerk or why that man cut you off and flipped you the bird as you tried to move your car into the exit lane. Broken people do broken things.
This had me thinking of Matthew 5:39:
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
If there was ever a season to practice that little lesson, the season we are entering would be the one. You never know what a gift a little forgiveness, a smile, a cup of coffee, or even a few pictures with your favorite phrases on it can actually do for someone.
Just the other day I turned around in line to pay for someone’s coffee simply because of how sad they looked. I don’t say this to toot my horn and show you what my left and right hands are doing. I say this, because it was worth seeing the look on that person’s face when I did it. It was worth it when they mentioned needing a little show of humanity to have faith in something again. Even the clerk behind the counter was surprised and, as I started up my car, I could see the coffee drinker laughing with clerk through the window.
Even if we are to be selfless givers, there is a reward directed at our hearts when we are a part of someone else’s smile or tears of joy. I believe God loves to see us smile when He gives us gifts and blessings, too. Even in the midst of Thanksgiving planning, this is the season we prepare to spend several weeks celebrating the gift our Heavenly Father bestowed on us with the birth of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.
I believe kindness is such a gift to our hearts because it extends the grace of the Lord to others.
Now that is the kind of gift that keeps on giving.
This post appears in the book: Shattered in Him © 2016 JD Mays