When Kindness Steps In
by AnnaMarie McHargue
My husband and son, Giacomo, recently made a trip to visit a well-known Christian college my boy thought he might like to attend. He’d been eyeing the school for years, but hadn’t actually visited. He has a heart for Jesus, but also a fondness for college football and dreamed of this magical place that actually offered both.
As the two drove up to the lovely tree-lined campus, Giacomo was mesmerized. It was magnificent, he said. Not only was Jesus ever-present in monuments and sculptures, but it was game day. The place was hopping. Students were giddy with excitement and looking forward to hosting a team that was known for its unstoppable quarterback and quick defense. The fight would be tough.
My husband secured game seats near the student section so that our boy could have a sense of life as an attendee. Could anything be more exciting for a teenage boy? Well, maybe the 49-14 win would seal the deal and make the decision to apply an easy one. Surprisingly, though, my boy wasn’t convinced. It was an inspiring school that focused on Jesus. It had a football team that could turn the nations’ best teams to mush. It was everything he wanted. But he confessed he wasn’t positive yet. He said he wanted to connect with the people. He wanted to see what the kids were like.
In steps Rebekah. She was a sophomore honors student whose love of the school was contagious. A friend asked if she could give our son a quick tour to point out those things that were meaningful to her on campus. My husband said she beamed when talking about the dorms and the library. She treasured the spot on campus where kids could go to pray. She loved her teachers. She loved her friends. Her one act of kindness that took no more than 15 minutes made Giacomo feel welcome. He could see the kids there cared like he did and that the people there were good. They wanted to help a stranger who traveled more than 1,500 miles to have a small taste of a dream come true. It was the final, convincing straw.
I understood completely. People wanting to do good really do make a difference.
Last year, when politics were really heating up, the bickering in my home and with extended family and friends started taking its toll on my normally positive life-outlook. I was becoming weary of the constancy of bitterness both in the news and in my normal daily conversations, and found that I needed continual reminders that people—friends and strangers—really are good and generally want the best for humanity. Is this true for everyone? Maybe not. But I believe that most of us appreciate goodness in others and find that simple acts of kindness can change everything.
My friend, Cathy, recently shared a story with me about her beloved father. She had lost him before Christmas and knew it was going to be a difficult season without him. In her grief, she found herself sharing her story with a near stranger, someone she had only met that day. She shared that she both dreaded and longed to put tinsel on the tree because that was one of her dad’s favorite parts of Christmas. The only problem: Where would she find tinsel? It wasn’t the “in” decoration anymore. She had searched everywhere.
A few weeks later, on her porch and in plenty of time for tree trimming, she found two boxes of tinsel. With it came a note from the stranger. It read, “You and your dad matter to me.” This simple act of kindness changed everything for Cathy. Of course her dad mattered to her, but this stranger showed that meaning and kindness come in all forms, this time in tinsel.
Small acts of kindness mean so much. They show that we are important to others—that we matter. I have been overwhelmed by the acts of kindness that run through our communities. These acts are mainly unseen by the rest of us, but the impact on the recipient is life changing.
What can we do today that will change someone’s day—or life—for the better?
AnnaMarie McHargue is the author of People Are Good: 100 True Stories to Restore Your Faith in Humanity, is the CEO of Words With Sisters, and has been a book editor for over 30 years. She lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and three children.
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