For me, becoming a Christian has been a lesson in humility. Or 8000 lessons. The continual realignment of my preconceptions, and the breaking down of stereotypes, and the realisation that I hold strongly onto this ridiculous intellectual superiority which has been proven time and time again to be based on nothing but my own ego. (This week’s lesson; I’ve always ignored Eugene Peterson because ‘Ugh, The Message, I don’t need to read that Bible for Dummies version*. And then in the last week I’ve had to read some of his books and they are amazing. Absolutely in sync with where I am right now and totally relevant. Because of course that would be the case).
So, Random Acts of Kindness. A ‘selfless act, performed by a person…to be kind’. There are some pointers here (if you’re a curmudgeonly bastard who can’t think of any nice things to do for others). I’ve tended to think that an act done on purpose, an intentional decision to go out and do nice things for people, is somehow inherently worth less than a natural and intuitive act that just stems from the fact that you are a giving person who spreads kindness because it’s in your heart. As if making the conscious decision to Be A Nice Person today somehow trivializes your actions.
Never mind the fact that massive amounts of evidence point to the fact that, if you want to make changes in your life, you need to be intentional about them. The more you act intentionally, the more the act will flow naturally until it seamlessly becomes part of the pattern of your life. I know all this. But in my ridiculous brain, acts that were kind and premeditated were somehow less worthy that those that were kind and natural.
Anyhoo, I’ve been the recipient of a few lovely acts recently. Not huge, life changing things, but enough to touch me. Yesterday, for instance, I needed to leave work early to take Jasper to a doctor’s appointment (I haven’t mentioned Jasper recently, but he is confined to a wheelchair now and I’m teaching him at home because his pain levels are too high. He will be having surgery in Melbourne on April 12th). I needed someone to take a Grade 9 History class, and one of my colleagues volunteered. He and I get on fine; he’s fairly taciturn and I’m going to use ‘curmudgeonly’ twice in one post but we have a good working relationship. (He’s the ‘You really don’t seem like a Christian’ guy and he find my support of the Greens laughable). So, he offered to take my class from 10.15, which I thought was just lovely. I sent out a general email asking all the staff so there was no pressure on him at all, he just wanted to help. And then, at about 10.05, he came down to where I was teaching and told me to head off early, because it was raining and the road conditions were bad. Which I just find amazingly thoughtful. Isn’t that a lovely thing to do for someone?
And I realised that it doesn’t matter if he deliberately thought last week, ‘Eva is having a really tough time right now; I’ll find some way to help her if I can’, or if he just saw my email and though ‘Meh, I’m free when she needs help, why not’. It doesn’t matter if it was intentional or incidental or if he had any ulterior motives for doing it.The impact that it had on my heart is what is important and I’ve realised that the context within which a kind act occurs means little to me. It’s the act itself that has meaning, and the fact that it’s a little glimmer of kindness that didn’t have to happen, but it did.
Scott Adams said, “Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” No matter the motivation behind an act of kindness, it creates ripples. And it may not be our destiny to know where they are going to go, or what they become. We can only start those ripples when ever the opportunity arises.
*Even though we know I do, right?