I want to talk with you briefly about kindness. A very simple concept, yet an idea that we often disregard. When I was working on a few points to jot down for this blog, I tried to come up with a witty title. I’m a writer, that’s what writers do. We write down our thoughts and marry them in grammatically correct sentences. But in this case, I drew a blank. Then I remembered something that my grandmother always told me that has never departed from my soul.
She used to always say “Ty, you must be sweet and kind to folk and God will bless you for it.”
As a child and even well into my adult years, her mantra that I adopted was never something that I fulfilled wholeheartedly. I’ve spent many years as a self-centered individual. I think most of us can attest that when it comes down to praying and making requests known to God, we find ourselves putting “me” before “we” and everything else in between. So going back to this idea of kindness and being good to people, I thought that God would bless me for being nice and going around smiling.
And by being nice, I interpreted this as tolerating people.
Now my grandmother on the other hand, she LOVED people. In her 97 years and the 21 years that I knew her, I never heard the woman speak an ill word of anyone. Me on the other hand, I’m no Mother Theresa so I tried to get by as much as I could. Recently, I met up with a high school classmate during my trip to California. I hadn’t seen him since we graduated 10 years ago, so naturally, we’ve grown into the people we were meant to be. During lunch, we caught up on old times and he recalled his favorite memory of me. His most fond moments of me came in the form of me once calling a classmate a “bitch”.
Live image of me at the table.
I was so embarrassed. Of course, I’d hidden away this moment in my clutter of lost high school moments. Unfortunately, he had not. Seriously, these days I drop an occasional f-bomb here and there but I just can’t bring myself to use such condescending language toward another woman. Nowadays when I do become testy with others, my conscience sends me on a guilt trip for days. He remembered me for standing up for myself. I can only remember being a hot head.
I did not love everyone as I had been taught to do by my grandma.
It wasn’t until the last two years in Charlotte where God truly showed me the powerful reward of serving others and fulfilling His request of “loving one another as he loves us”.
I began watching my friends start Hashtag Lunchbag Charlotte where volunteers go out every first Saturday of the month. Initially, I went to support my friends and of course to pass out lunch bags. The idea in my head was to give the so-called “homeless” people food and walk away. But there was something so magnetic about their reaction to us taking an hour out of our day to hand off not only nourishment but a love note. It put a smile on my face. I could slowly feel the chains on my heart break their links. In the months to follow, I really came to see how kindness worked. It’s an even exchange, tangible or not.
A few months before I resigned from my full-time job to pursue other aspirations, an intersection where I lived in North Charlotte was full of panhandlers. Men and a few women stood there, appearing hopeless and malnourished as we drove by in our fancy cars. I would give them a sympathetic look and keep driving. I knew not to judge, but also I knew some of them were using deceptive means to get cash.
How was I to tell the difference?
As the seasons changed and it became extremely frigid outside, I saw the number of individuals asking for money had diminished except for two in particular. Even in the rain and 40-degree weather, I saw two men routinely standing at the red light as the rain drenched their dirty clothes and the signs they held asking for help. If you will stand in a storm to get money, then there is no doubt in my mind that you need that money. And my heart began to soften. I could hear God telling me to give them what spare change I had in my bag. Even one time I reached over to my purse, all I had was a $20 bill and I was like “no God” and He was like “yes, tyler”. So I handed over the money and refrained from questioning God’s will, expecting nothing in return. Other times, I heard God call on me to give to strangers in ways that felt absolutely uncomfortable but for His glory. I obeyed but did not understand.
He was slowly humbling me for what was ahead.
Six months later, I found myself at a low point. I cannot say that I hit rock bottom, that’s far from the truth because my faith is solid. Although most days I’m like “fix it Jesus”. Life took a sudden turn in a way I couldn’t prepare for. There was no adult manual for all of the issues that I needed to know how to fix in a hurry. I took it all in stride, managed to keep a smile and continue to trust God’s plan for my life. I remained anchored in hope that my breakthrough was coming.
What I want to tell you today is that the kindness of people around me is the one thing that did and is continuously keeping me afloat. None of the people around me are 100% in the know about my day-to-day challenges, but they’ve opened their hearts without me having to ask. I get emails all the time for referrals to job opportunities. My friends are constantly inviting me to dinner or calling to see if I need anything. Even a text that says “I love you and I’m thinking of you” was worth more than any amount of money to me right about now. My circumstances have changed tremendously all because I opened my heart to help when I had abundance. Now that I am out of the storm, I am extremely mindful of why you should pay it forward.
Finally, I could reap the good harvest from what I had sewn. God knows I needed it.
Some days we all need a pick me up, just to know that someone cares and that we aren’t invisible. I’m growing stronger because of everyone’s compassion. Even that of strangers. None of them have expected one thing of me or asked for anything in return. And I like to think that it’s because a.) God’s mercy and b.) my understanding of how kindness works.
You don’t have to see someone going through the storm in order to be good to them. In the process, I had to learn to allow people to be kind to me. In my private struggles, I had to open myself up. I still have my character flaws, as we all do. But, as we work on ourselves it is extremely important to take others into consideration.
Luke 6:35-36 reads 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Kindness goes a long way. We all get busy and tangled in the hustle and bustle and life but what if God were too busy blessing others that He didn’t have time to supply our needs? I don’t want to know the answer to that. I’m glad we have a God that can multitask. One thing I want to share with you today is to make it a priority to be generous and truly serve from your heart without expectation. God will repay you. And don’t boast about it. You know we’re in a culture on Facebook where everyone has to snap a photo of their so-called good deeds and humanitarianism, I know I’m guilty.
When our acts of kindness are done humbly and anonymously, God will always bless us publicly.
Matthew 6 3-4 reads 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
I challenge you today to send out an email just telling someone you’re thinking of them. Submit a love offering. Make a call to someone that you know will brighten up at the sound of your voice. Let someone in front of you at the supermarket. Just say “thank you” whenever to whomever you can.
You never know when people are at the end of their rope and down to their last ounce of faith. I truly believe God sends us love notes in the form of people. Wear God’s love proudly because He never goes out of style. You’ll be blessed beyond belief. Be kind without restrictions.
Colossians 3:12 reads therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness humility, gentleness and patience
I’ll leave you with my grandmother’s teaching that has held true in my life. “You must be sweet and kind to folk and God will bless you for it.”