You know what’s been on my mind lately? The kindness of strangers that I’ve experienced in my life. I can think of so many instances where people I had never formed a relationship with reached out with something that blessed me from the simplest to the most profound manner.
The “Pay-It-Forward”/ “Random Acts of Kindness” movements that I’ve seen several of my friends participating in are such a great challenge to me to look for ways to be intentional about being kind and displaying a servant’s heart. You just never know what a person is going through. Those that you pass on the sidewalk, stand in line at the grocery store with, or rub elbows against as you pass through the door of a coffee shop all have a need.
During some really lean financial days of our family’s life, my sister and I were at the grocery store with my mom. Mama saw a sweet lady she knew, but Mary and I had never met. As we were navigating the aisles, she must have overheard me begging my mom for these miniature blueberry muffins only to be told that we couldn’t afford them. As we were leaving the store, the same lady ran over to us with an Ingles’ bag that held those muffins.
I think of so many times we’d go to pay the bill at a restaurant only to be told that someone else gotten the tab for us.
When my dad was dying of cancer, I’ll never forget an encounter with a waiter at Macaroni Grille that my mom and I had. We had just left the hospital to grab some lunch, heavy hearted from being by Daddy’s bedside. Apparently, I was wearing my heart on my sleeve that day because our waiter turned to me and said, “Smile.” I didn’t feel like smiling. I was sort of ticked that he said that, truthfully, because he had no idea where I had just come from. As my mom explained to him why I looked so downcast, I was left with a reminder that I actually did still have many things to smile about. The air that I was breathing, the food I was about to partake in, the gas in my car to get me to and from Winston Salem from Virginia so I could see my Dad, the family I still had left, my education, and most importantly my salvation: I still had so much to be thankful for and to smile about. That stranger was just trying to cheer me up.
I think of so many people who we never knew before my dad got sick that went the extra mile to minister to us.
One of the ladies from our home church had a son who was the Pastor of a local congregation in Winston Salem,NC that had a quilting ministry. Strangers handcrafted two quilts- one for my dad and one for my mom- to both brighten up his hospital room and keep them warm in the cold building. My dad used his quilt till his dying day. It almost became his security blanket, so we affectionately referred to him as Linus. So simple, yet such a warm blessing.
Then, there was the chaplain of Baptist Hospital, who came to check on us every single time we were back. Often, he would just sit there to listen, and then take us by the hands to pray.
Someone we knew happened to know John Wayne’s widow and she sent to one of the most kind, empathetic note I’ve ever read. Through various other connections world renowned news anchor, Sam Donaldson, and the former Presidential candidate, Bob Dole, even called to offer support and encouragement to my dad because they had both walked the journey of cancer.
There were two patients who had survived the same form of cancer my dad had and showed up on separate days to encourage him with their stories. One of them was a believer as well and she prayed the sweetest prayer over Daddy. I’ll never forget her beseeching God with all of her heart to heal him from the top of his head to the tip of his toes.
Later on, there was the Catholic Priest who showed up several times at St.Joseph’s Hospital in Asheville, NC to check on us and pray. He was there the night my Dad went to Heaven and came to comfort my mom. You know what his name was? Jerry. Just like my dad. Though my dad had been saved after growing up in a Catholic environment, it was so beautiful that this man of the cloth showed up and offered a kind presence.
My mind wanders back to just after my Granddaddy died. We had so much food made for us that we didn’t know what to do with it all. I remember this delicious pork roast that we had and no one could figure out who brought it. Finally, we discovered that it was from a lady named Carolyn from a church nearby. None of us had ever met her, but she poured all of her best ingredients into that pork roast to bless our family in our time of loss. Later, we became good friends with her family.
Then there was last Sunday, when I was at Kroger in the checkout line and one of the sales clerks reached over the aisle to present me with a bouquet of Sunflowers and simply said, “Have a GREAT day.”
Not too long ago, having both of her little girls in the back of her car, my sister stopped to check on a man who was having car trouble at the bottom of the hill below my mom’s house. My oldest niece put up a little bit of a protest because she was scared. But Gracie, the youngest piped up and said, “Nevaeh, Mommy’s going to help this man because WE are Pereiras and that’s what Pereiras do. They help people.”
Out of the mouths of babes. I hope my kids have that kind of heart some day.
It’s not just the heart of Pereiras. It’s the heart of Jesus. As I was thinking through the term “Kindness of Strangers,” I was led to my concordance. There was just such a familiar ring to it. Then I realized why.
This is what Jesus says,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a STRANGER and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:34-36)
I’m challenged to look around and see ways I can show the kindness of Christ to those who may not even know my name. I’m challenged because it’s not just something that will make me have the warm fuzzies inside. It’s an opportunity to bless the heart of God by demonstrating His love to others.
We all were once strangers to God. But he reached out with His loving kindness to offer friendship in the midst of us not even knowing His name. He had every right to just pass us by, but instead, He paused and offered all that He had.
I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to stop a little more often and offer what I have to those who have a need, whether they express that need or not. Everyone has a need.
Oh, the endless possibilities for the kindness of a stranger.
I’m in. Are you?