Friday, March 2, 2012

It Was No “Random Act of Kindness”

A Conscious Act of Kindness
What Can You Do Today?

Her feet dragged along the sidewalk. The black plastic bag she held in her hand hovered only inches from the ground. She paused, let go of the bag, and put her hand to her forehead. She took a few labored steps, stopped, and dropped the bag again as if it held the weight of the world. I waited for her to complete her path across the sidewalk in front of the driveway I wanted to pull into. I saw her struggle as she continued her weary walk. She took a few steps and then she stopped again. After she crossed the driveway, I pulled in, turned my head to the left, and watched her again stop and drop her bag. The bag didn’t look full and was knotted far from the top, but the effort it took her to carry it made me think it was heavy.
I had plans. I always have plans. I was in that driveway to pick up someone and go about those plans. Sometimes our plans must be put aside. I knew it was one of those times.
I got out of my car, walked over to her, and asked if she needed some help. Her answer wasn’t intelligible; she was that exhausted. I asked her where she was going. She said around the corner and then home. I told her I would carry her bag and walk her home. When I picked it up, I was shocked at how little the bag weighed—not even five pounds. We took a few steps forward and she continued to struggle, so I suggested we go in my car. I put the bag in the trunk, started the car, and even though it wasn’t a typical hot Florida day, I turned the air conditioning as high as it would go. Overweight, she struggled into the passenger seat and had difficulty putting on her seatbelt. She then began repeating, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”
I asked if anyone was at her home and she said her children would be there soon from school. I also asked if she wanted me to get her some medical help. She declined, but kept repeating her mantra of “Thank you, Jesus.” I drove the two blocks to her house and helped her out of the car. I was worried. I didn’t want to leave her there, but she reassured me she would be okay. “Do you have a phone so you can call for help if you need it?” I asked. She said she did. I gave her the bag from the trunk and she walked toward her door.

I then went about my plans after answering a phone call asking where I was. I didn’t give the experience much thought yesterday, but it came to me again this morning. Why? Because I hesitated before I asked the woman if she needed help. I had to decide to help. And even then, I had to decide just how much I was going to help. Would I walk her home when it was clear she was struggling, or would I put a complete stranger in my car and drive her somewhere? I am shamed that I had to ponder it, even for the short moments I did. I know it’s wise to consider whether it’s safe to help someone in this society-gone-mad in which we live, but unless the woman was Meryl Streep caliber, her distress was no act, and I knew that.
My act was not a “random act of kindness.” It was a considered and then conscious act of kindness. I am not proud that I had to consider whether to help someone, but the result is the same. Someone who needed help received it.
My aim here is not to bring attention to myself for my actions. I believe and take seriously the Bible verse about not letting my left hand know what my right is doing. It’s not about what I did, but about what you can do. My aim is a gentle reminder to step forward and partake in an act of kindness, be it conscious or be it random.

Matthew, Chapter 6
Giving to the Needy
1“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

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