Nettie Reynolds, the chaplain who provided the prayers of the people at the Post-Election Detox worship service at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary the day after the recent election, described her encounter with a tow truck driver wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat as well as her concern that he would not help her if he saw the Obama sticker on her car. Their encounter ended with his folding her into a big hug and telling her not to worry about the sticker because “kindness always wins.” I’m still struggling to decide if I believe that to be true. I want to believe it, and I can think of times in my life when I’ve seen kindness win. But I’m also aware of news reports about those who have reached out in kindness and paid a terrible price. I’m still thinking about this, but that of course means the idea will not let me go and continues to tug at my heartstrings.
I think what it comes down to for me is that I’m going to do my best to be kind, even in circumstances where that may not produce the results I might hope for. Because for me, it’s not about the results. It’s about the kind of person I want to be. And I do not want to be a person who is unkind. That does not mean I don’t have my moments like everyone else, but it does mean that I will do my best to be kind, even when it costs me. I also know that being kind can mark me as a “patsy,” an “easy mark,” “someone to be taken advantage of.” And I’m willing to pay that price to be the kind of person I want to be. There have been times when I’ve allowed myself to be taken advantage of, knowing that was probably what was going on, but choosing to “go the extra mile” in hopes it would make a difference in someone else’s life at some point, even if they might be taking advantage of me.
I remember a time not long ago when a young woman accosted me in the parking lot at a local Starbucks to ask me for money. I’m always a bit wary when I’m approached like that and generally answer, “I’m sorry. I don’t have any change for you.” But in this case, God nudged me to respond. So I offered to buy the young woman a drink, and we walked into the Starbucks together. I asked her if she wanted some breakfast, and she said “yes.” I told her to order what she wanted. She asked if she could also get something for her companion, and I said “yes.” The companion called her while we were waiting, and I heard her say, “I’m coming as soon as I can.”
I paid for the order and walked out with her to find that my car was parked close to the big pickup truck she got into. The guy who was driving looked at me with apparent astonishment. She got in; they drove out of the parking lot and onto the highway, and took off. To this day, I wonder what that was about. What did she really need? Why did I feel compelled not only to respond, but also to go overboard, to respond in the way God does, with abundance? While I’m still not sure if “Kindness Always Wins,” I do believe that no act of kindness is wasted. Maybe this young woman was in an abusive relationship, and the guy sent her out to ask for money. And maybe my response will give her the hope she needs to reach out again when she is ready to ask for help. I don’t know. But God does. And that’s good enough for me.
Grace and Peace,