There was a sale, awhile ago, at one of my favorite online shops, the exact same week I had a little extra money. I was excited. I put in an order for a scarf I’d been longing for at Wrapunzel, and it shipped very quickly as it always does. I don’t know how the ladies who run their shop stay so organized and professional, but they ship things more quickly than Amazon half the time.
I opened the package and unwrapped my new scarf; I smelled it, admiring how it didn’t smell like that disinfectant they use at the thrift shop where I usually buy scarves and things. I fanned it out luxuriously. The receipt fell out of the folds of the scarf as I did this, with a cursive “Enjoy!” and a heart drawn on the bottom in Sharpie. Someone always hand-writes a note on the receipt to go with the Wrapunzel scarves.
Two business cards and another card fell out of the folds of the scarf. The Wrapunzel ladies always tuck little cards into their orders as well.
The card that wasn’t a business card had an adage written on it in fancy, scalloped letters: “Kindness is not a random act. It’s a lifestyle.”
I was enchanted.
I don’t usually like platitudes and adages. I’m cynical about such things. But I liked that one. I put it on my fridge.
I don’t think real kindness can ever be a random act.
A random act is something you do on a whim, without forethought or planning. Tossing your pen in the air and catching it while you think what to write on a shopping list is a random act. Stopping at a roadside stand to buy sweet corn because you happened to see it on the way home is a random act. Saying “horses” when you see horses is a random act.
Of course you might stumble upon a benevolent action, when you act randomly. Drop a handful of change, and the buttons and lint you happened to have in that pocket, in a beggar’s cup as you pass by. That’s a random act, and it might make you feel like you’ve been kind. It might make you feel good about yourself all day. You might even end that day feeling that you’ve really become a kind person.
But if you rely upon random acts like that, I don’t think you’ll ever become kind.I think you can only become kind by the grace of God, and by a conscious process of cooperating with that grace.
And this is deadly serious, because it’s part of being Christian to be kind. Kindness is part of being perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect, of following the Golden Rule. It’s not possible to be Christian and skip over being kind; it’s one of the things we are supposed to do.
To be a kind person is not to be random, or randomly benevolent. It’s to be loving, merciful and generous to the people you encounter. And in order to do that, you have to encounter people in the first place. You have to notice them. You can’t just dance through life randomly. You have to be alert. You have to look around you, really intend your actions, and choose to be kind. Hopefully, it will one day become a habit, but it can never become random or a series of random acts.
Randomness is dropping pennies in a beggar’s cup. Kindness is looking that beggar in the eye when you give and saying “Have a nice day.” Kindness is asking if there’s anything she needs right now you can get for her, like a new pair of socks or a water bottle, and then getting it. Kindness is bringing her a packed lunch the next morning on your way in to work, or taking her to lunch with you at noon.
Randomness is pulling over to buy sweet corn on a whim on your way home. Kindness is being sure to be patient with the person who rings up your purchase, and to say “thank you very much” as if you mean it. Kindness is finding a friend to share your random special meal with, or deliberately buying enough for two and giving half to someone who would like it.
Randomness is playing with your pen as you write your shopping list. Kindness is budgeting ahead of time so that you can always pick up one item for the soup kitchen or food pantry whenever you shop for yourself. Kindness is smiling patiently and saying “Excuse me” as you squeeze your cart past an inconsiderate person who stopped in the middle of the aisle. Kindness is asking the disabled person with the battery-powered shopping cart if they need help reaching something on a high shelf.
Kindness requires awareness. It’s anything but random.
I resolve to be kind.
And I can’t wait until I get to buy another scarf, and see if there’s another little sermon wrapped inside.
(image via Pixabay)