Tucked stealthily away in the pages of the New Testament is a two-word phrase. It leapt of the pages of my Bible one day, rearranged my thinking, and became somewhat of a life mission. A subtle perspective shift that enables me to view each day as an adventure. And—although it is a straightforward concept that usually costs little but our time—such two-word behavior is mighty scarce these days.
In Acts 28:1-2 we encounter some unnamed natives who dwelt on a remote island where a boatload of people—including the apostle Paul—suddenly found themselves after surviving a shipwreck in the middle of a storm. “Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness.”
Did you catch it? Unusual kindness. Their welcoming behavior toward the group of strangers was so uncommon that scripture didn’t just chronicle this encounter with the single word “kindness”. Instead, it intentionally hitched the adjective “unusual” to kindness to give us a glimpse of the godly and counter-culture behavior of these folks. What can this look like today?
Kindness holds the door open for an elderly person leaving the grocery store. Unusual kindness willingly carries their groceries all the way to their car, puts them in the trunk, and sends them on their way with a “My pleasure.” when thanked.
Kindness is smiling at the maxed-out mom of two young kids pitching a royal fit in the department store toy aisle, rather than stone-faced silently judging her for her apparent lack of parenting skills. Unusual kindness recognizes that all children misbehave sometimes and this stressed-out mama is woefully outnumbered. So you tell her to hang in there. That she is doing an important job. And maybe you even slip a $10 bill in her hand and tell her to swing by a drive-through to grab those kids a snack and herself a large latte. She’s gonna need it.
Kindness whispers a prayer for your just-moved-in-from-six-states-away neighbor facing the holidays alone. Unusual kindness invites him to your house Christmas morning, folds him in to your family’s celebration, and gives him his own gift and stocking of goodies to open along with everyone else.
If you want to begin to scatter unusual kindness, here are six simple ways to start:
1. Interrupt the ordinary.
Think about the people who help you get life done. (I call them “necessary people”) Interrupt them on an ordinary day to thank them. And maybe also gift them with a small token. A coffee house gift card for the grocery store clerk. A mug of hot spiced cider for the garbage collector on a chilly morn. When our children were small, we once threw a party—and some confetti—on our front porch and celebrated Mr. Brown Day, showering our mailman with gratitude on a random fall afternoon.
2. Lighten a load.
Have a neighbor tackling her bush-trimming before winter sets in? Know a panicking coworker who needs to paint his living room before hosting the family holiday get-together? Jump in alongside them and help.
3. Share your stuff.
Your neighbors’ snow blower busted? Let them use yours. Know a family with young kids headed on a long car trip? Allow them to use your electronic tablet so they can watch a movie to break up the boredom. Everything we own actually belongs to God, so live open-handed and share your...or rather…God’s stuff!
4. Take the sting out of sorrow.
Adopt the habit of writing down birth and anniversary dates when you attend a funeral. Check the bulletin and then log them into your calendar. Then, do something to encourage the loved ones left behind on ones of these days. Our young sons once took roses to a widow on her first anniversary without her beloved husband of over a half-century. I showed up on my friend’s doorstep with a homemade carrot cake (her dad’s favorite!) on what would have been his birthday—her first time not being with him on that day. She bawled. I did too.
5. Love from afar.
Send a care package of treats and trinkets to a faraway friend or relative who needs a little encouragement. My friend’s normally homeschooled children were entering a tradition middle school setting for the first time this fall and a tad nervous. I made them a first day of school blessings box complete with snacks, notebooks, jewelry, and sports accessories to help ease their apprehensions and timed it to arrive the day before school started.
6. Pray…and let them know you are praying.
Yes, pray for others. However, make sure to let them know what and when you prayed. Send a text telling them that you just lifted them up and also mentioning what you asked God for concerning their situation. Write out a prayer for them on a note card and slip it into the mail. Don’t just pray. Take the extra step of allowing the person you are praying for a peek into your prayers on their behalf.
Unusual kindness. Scatter some today. When you do, you’ll make someone’s day—and yours! And then, the boomerang of blessing lands right back in your lap.
Karen Ehman is the author of Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World.You can find her online at KarenEhman.com.
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