This morning Ryker and I had the privilege of delivering some leftover cupcakes to some of our librarians. Now, our family frequents our public library multiple times each week. Between activities and books on hold and something to do on a cold, snowy day, we are there so much. We know them and they know us. They have seen our family at its best when our kids are serving each other. And they have seen me dragging my son out of the library with no movies because he wanted to scream and kick rather than just choose a movie. So, my hope is that the cupcakes bring a smile to their faces and make them feel appreciated and valued.
I realize it is very trendy these days to do "random acts of kindness". It is fun to 'pay it forward' when the car in front of you just bought your coke that you desperately needed to get through a tough day. But, what do these acts of kindness accomplish?
Don't misunderstand me. Random acts of kindness can be a great thing. I have been on the receiving end of many and it still feels good to buy a block of "expensive" cheese for the lady who put it back when she found out how much it cost. It is never a bad thing to help the elderly couple place their groceries in their trunk. Kindness is always good. And, sometimes, helping someone have a better day than they were having is enough!
We should always be kind. Being selfish or living with the mindset of "I'll never see this person again" does not help anyone.
But, sometimes we have the opportunity to spread kindness intentionally over time and make a greater impact. What if our acts of kindness weren't random? What if we actually planned for them, budgeted for them, and invested over the long term? Any time we invest somewhere over time, it makes a deeper and longer lasting impact.
Our family likes to keep things simple. For us this means trying to create relationships wherever we go. It means checking out with the same cashier when we can. It means interacting with our librarians about real life instead of just getting out of there as fast as possible. It means volunteering at our kids' school over and over again and supporting them in whatever ways we can. It means watching for the mailman, not just the mail, so that when he starts asking spiritual questions he knows where to turn. It means talking to my neighbor when I'd rather avoid eye contact and get inside on a windy day. It means giving to the same organizations over time so we see the investment and understand the difference a little bit over a long time can make. It means taking a little extra time to get to know the people around us. There is nothing random about it.
So, what are the things you do all the time? Where do you go at least once a week? How can you invest in those places? How can you focus your kindness toward your neighbors and maybe make a more eternal impact?
Maybe being kind isn't about making us feel better (though it will) but about sacrificing time, money, or energy, a little piece of ourselves, to show someone else how loved they are by a God who created them. As Reggie Joiner says, "What would happen if you decided to treat--consciously and intentionally--every kid like they are made in the image of God?" What if we thought about the people we see on a regular basis and decided that random acts of kindness aren't enough, but that we can invest over and over in the lives of others and show them a God who loves them!
I want to be for my neighbors. This means taking the time to notice them. This means setting aside my agenda and wants sometimes to step into their world and see them and see their needs and give. We could have given the cupcakes to anyone. And, it would have been nice. But, we gave them where relationships are already established. And, I hope our simple, intentional gesture of kindness creates a deeper relationship and more conversations about things that matter!
So, maybe you don't need to "Just Say NO to Random Acts of Kindness", but maybe you need to look for some consistent and intentional ways to be kind.