The Kindness of Strangers

love-is-kind

By the time I made it to the checkout line at Wal-Mart that day, I was a bit frazzled.

The shopping with children while sticking to a budget and using coupons and planning meals for the week on the fly had done me in.

I ran the gauntlet, that candy-displaying aisle that also comes fully equipped with toy cameras, play cell phones, matchbox cars, and other wonderful overly expensive nothing toys that every child “must” have!

Finally, I was done.  Groceries in the cart.  Coupons handed over.  Total amount deducted from my checking account.

Freedom!!

We made it to the van.  My kids piled in.  I loaded every last grocery bag into the back and slammed the door shut.

Then I realized I had left my wallet inside.

Because that’s what tired, frazzled, totally stressed and generally scatterbrained women do.  We leave our personal identification and all access to our financial lives sitting around the Wal-Mart.

I re-opened the van door and started unbuckling my confused children so we could go back inside and hunt for the missing wallet when I heard him: The man who saved my day.

He ran over to me holding my wallet outstretched.  “The cashier let me run it out to you,” he explained.

In A Streetcar Named Desire, the character Blanche DuBois frequently says, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Don’t we all?  At some time or another, haven’t we all depended on the kindness of somebody, whether stranger or friend?  They’ve saved us from a rotten day and might as well wear a cape and some tights because it’s as good as being rescued by a superhero.

But, here’s the catch, showing kindness always involves at least a little inconvenience.

My kind stranger abandoned his own cart of groceries and delayed his day to run out to a parking lot and find the crazy woman who can’t keep track of her things.

Too often we don’t make the choice he did.  Instead, we choose convenience over service and comfort over love for our neighbor.

We’re busy. We’re tired. We have important ministry commitments that keep us from  ministering to an individual in need. We hope another will offer help.

And that’s how we can miss the point.

Just like the disciples did in Matthew 19:

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there”(Matthew 19:1-2).

They were accustomed to Jesus drawing a crowd so this was business as usual. Everywhere He went, a mob of searching, needy people followed.

It must have been thrilling to be a disciple of this Rabbi—to see His Spiritual power, His draw, to think perhaps He was the Messiah they had long waited for.

And He didn’t just attract a crowd of needy paupers or country-folk.  Oh no.  Where Jesus traveled, so did the powerful elite to examine and cross-examine this religious phenomenon.  So it was on this day “some Pharisees came to test him” (Matthew 19:3).

The disciples were the closest people on earth to a superstar with mass appeal and the attention of big-shots.

But then some parents did the unthinkable.

They “brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.  But the disciples rebuked them” (Matthew 19:13).

Jesus loved the little children.  That’s what we see, say and sing about this passage.  And yes, that’s there.

But there’s something else here, too.

It’s not just that He stops for children, but that He stops at all. 

To the disciples, these families and kids were time-wasters.  Jesus had crowds to attend to, miracles to perform, Pharisees to spar with.

If anyone in the world was too busy for the little, it was Jesus.

But Jesus took time for kindness.

He accepted a little inconvenience in order to show love to the small, undervalued and overlooked because “love is patient; love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Sometimes in that Good Samaritan story in Luke 10, we’re the priest and the Levite, so busy with important tasks maybe we’re too busy to show kindness to the people who lie along the road we’re traveling.

 

Could we choose to change?

Could we choose to turn aside?  To take the time? To value people over schedules and agendas?  To sacrifice for others?

Could we choose kindness?

After all, it hardly mattered if the Samaritan arrived late at his destination.  He had helped the hurting and that had far more significance.

The kindness was worth the inconvenience.  It always is.

 

Originally published 9/12/2011

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