Friday, July 14, 2006

The Kindness of Strangers

Sometimes I'll see a young mom at the grocery store, hands full with kids and packages, struggling to make sure neither get away from her. If I can, I'll try to give her a hand - unloading groceries or returning her cart. I don't know why I feel compelled to do this for absolute strangers. Perhaps it's because I'm thinking of my sis somewhere on the other side of town, four little kids in tow, and I hope someone will stop and help her if she needs it.

It's certainly nothing I ever expect to be reciprocated, since I don't have kids and usually don't have a problem managing my packages.

But a few weekends ago I was blown away by the kindness of perfect strangers. After a particularly rough week at work, I was headed for the store on Sunday evening, chatting to my sis on my cell phone. I continued talking with her as I headed into the store and part way through my shopping trip. About 45 minutes later, I emerged from the store with a cart full of groceries and noticed several people gathered around my car. Gulp! Believe it or not, I'd managed to leave the car running, unlocked, with the keys in the ignition the whole time! I swear this one concerned couple was just there standing guard over it! I guess the woman noticed my complete embarrassment, because she began helping me unload my packages and tried to put me at ease with a few stories of her own mishaps. She made sure I was okay before taking my cart from me and returning it to the cart area.

I can't tell you how touched I was by their kindness. So why am I blogging about this today? I guess because I learned something very valuable that day. The system works both ways. I believe everyday there are opportunities for us to be kind to others. They may be little things such as a smile or returning someone's cart for them. Or they may require a bit more time and effort on our part. But they're there - if we're looking for them.

On the other hand, sometimes we may need to just be the gracious recipient of the kindness of others. I hate when I'm so overwhelmed by my own personal circumstances that I'm oblivious to the needs of those around me and yet, even in those times, God extends his love to me through the hands of others, sometimes strangers. If we were on the receiving end all the time, I think we might tend to become self-centered. And yet if we're always on the giving end, the well will eventually run dry. Are we willing to be both instruments and recipients of grace?

For those of you who know my husband, I have not mentioned said faux pas to him. I can't think of many things in our nine years of marriage that I haven't disclosed to him but I can't risk having my shopping or driving privileges revoked - it's not like I'm eighty years old! So don't rat me out, okay?


Katrina said...

Oh, how sweet of those people! I think that one reason some people are so willing to extend kindness is because they are sensitive to the fact that they have needed/appreciated kindness shown to them at some point. I was helped two weeks ago at the grocery store, myself. As I struggled to load groceries in the car with a 5 week old strapped to me in his baby carrier, a sweet little old lady (who needed a cane, no less) offered to take my cart for me. I was really touched.

I completely agree with you - we have to be willing to be on both sides of this coin.

Oh, and...your secret is safe with me! ;)

Thanks for sharing this!

Jennifer said...

I like to think that what goes around comes around (with the good stuff, too), but I don't know that it's always true. But there is something nice about being helpful just because you can.

Gail said...

Good post, and great reminder to be looking for those opportunities...I'm afraid that I am oblivious at times to the needs of others and need to remember to show God's love. Like your blog, found you through my sister Stacy!

Miss Audrey said...

Hi there. Enjoyed your story. Kindness begets kindness... I followed your comment link from CWO. Your story reminds me of the time that I accidently locked my keys in my van and had to call my hubby to come and get me and help me out. Was I ever thankful that my van ran quietly and he didn't realize that not only did I lock the keys in the car, but it was running with the air conditioner on! Your secret is safe with me!


Jeannine said...

I've found I just feel happy when I can do something to help others. I try to remember that when I'm on the receiving end too.

Your story is the type of thing I wouldn't want to tell my husband either. At least not for a couple more months and then only when we were very relaxed. . ."Ya know, a funny thing happened to me at the grocery store a while back . . ."

Susanne said...

How wonderful that there is still courtesy and kindness stories to tell! Hee, does hubby not read your blog once in a while? You might haved ratted on yourself.