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A Lesson in Kindness

I can be oblivious sometimes. If we’re honest, it’s likely something we all are guilty of from time to time. Life is busy and we become laser-focused checking off the task at hand and moving on to the next thing on the list. Oftentimes, in the midst of our focus, we become totally unaware of the things that are physically surrounding us and we miss opportunities to listen, encourage, and show kindness. There are so many people that go unseen when I’m not fully engaged with what is happening around me. I really have to be intentional about observing others, otherwise, I miss them.

A while back, I had an experience that reminded me that a simple act of kindness might mean the world to someone who is hurting. I was at the grocery store unloading my groceries onto the check-out belt. My cart was full so it took several minutes to unload everything. I greeted the woman scanning my groceries, but my attention was drawn towards the young bagger at the end who was loading my groceries for me.

That day happened to be one that the schools in our community were closed for teacher training. I light-heartedly joked at the teen bagging my food about having to work when he had a day off of school. After a brief moment, he looked up at me and said, “Who me?” as he didn’t realize I was speaking to him.

As I finished checking out and paying, he and I had a brief conversation about how his mom was ill and how he was working more and had dropped out of traditional school to help pay her medical bills. We continued talking for a few more minutes after he had finished bagging everything. I attempted to encourage him a bit, but mostly I just listened to his story. Another customer came along and the young man needed to get back to his job so I wished him well and headed out to my car.

I had parked further out so it took me a few minutes to get to my car and get things loaded. Before I could finish, I saw the young man I had just said goodbye to running towards me. I figured I had left something I purchased in the store. He yelled out “Sir, don’t leave yet.” As he approached my car he held his hand out and said “Sir, I just wanted to shake your hand.” I was thoroughly confused. I hadn’t said anything profound to this teenager, so I had no idea why he wanted to shake my hand. I held my hand out and shook his hand as he had requested. When I asked him why, his response broke me. “I’ve been working all day today and you are the only person who talked to me. It meant a lot and I just wanted you to know that,” he replied.

That moment will forever be a reminder to me that a simple act of human kindness towards a stranger might have a much larger impact than we can imagine. It was also a moment of conviction in which I had to acknowledge my unintentional, but frequent, lack of awareness towards others. In this instance, I was focused on someone else and took the Holy Spirit’s lead to engage in conversation with a young man. But I cringe when I think of how many times I have unintentionally put blinders on and completely missed an opportunity to love someone. Colossians 3:12 tells us: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

So next time you’re in the grocery store check-out line or waiting for a hostess to seat you at your favorite restaurant, think about what you could do with those 60 seconds. You could grab your phone from your pocket and aimlessly browse Facebook, or you could put on the eyes of Jesus and notice those around you that might benefit from an encouraging word or hello. You’ll likely never know the impact that a simple word might have in another person’s day, but the recipient will surely remember.

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