A Ministry of Sister Care
The count-down to Christmas is underway. Lists have been made and we’re checking them off.
When all the wrappings are in the trash, the leftovers consumed, and the decorations packed away, what will we remember about the celebration of Jesus’ birth? Will it be the gifts we gave and received or perhaps an unexpected gift of kindness we gave or received? I am guessing that the unexpected gift of kindness will have greater impact than the wrapped gifts.
The initiative “Random Acts of Kindness” is attributed to Ann Herbert, an American writer, who scribbled this phase on a placemat in a restaurant in the 80’s. Since then the concept has been reinforced by others such as radio hosts, TV, U Tube, and a book by Danny Wallace, “Random Acts of Kindness; 365 ways to make the world a nicer place.”
My first witness to an intentional act of kindness happened while having lunch in a restaurant with my pastor. Before our order arrived, he walked to a nearby table of an older couple and picked up the bill stating he would pay today. The couple did not know him and their eyes revealed emotions of suspicion and uncertainty. After a few moments of awkward silence they quietly spoke their thanks and left the restaurant.
Several months ago, I was the recipient of an act of unexpected kindness. Traveling east on the congested Pennsylvania Turnpike on a Sunday evening with several grandchildren, we stopped at a rest area for food. It appeared that those who came before us had depleted the food supply. Most everything we asked for, including a pint of milk, was not available and the one order that was filled was not the item we ordered. In all the confusion and the concern for one grandson, who didn’t find the food of his choice, I left my purse behind. About two miles down the road I began frantically looking for it and realized what I had done. I felt disgust and panic as I thought about my thoughtlessness. It would be complicated and take considerable amount of time to go back. And would the purse still be there?
Within a few moments, we were startled by the ringing of Don’s cell phone. The caller was a woman who had just found my purse and dialed the emergency number programed in my cell. She suggested we go to the next exit, pull off and wait for her there. We did as she instructed and about 15 minutes later the expected car slowed to a stop behind us. Don ran back to retrieve the purse as traffic whizzed by. He offered a gift of $20 for her unexpected kindness. The stranger refused a reward stating she would want to have the same done for her and sped away. I carefully checked my wallet for cash and credit cards and with deep gratitude found all was well, a gift I will long remember.
The panic I experienced in losing a purse seems nothing compared with the immense devastation in the Philippians and poverty here and abroad. Requests for dollars from good causes dominate the mail and phone messages at this time of the year. How do I know which to support and which to ignore? To which organizations will the greater portion of my dollars go directly to the need and not to administrators? How will the dollars I spend for family at Christmas be balanced with my gifting or random acts of kindness that provide for daily necessities of life for my sisters here and abroad who have less or nothing?
In Luke 6, Jesus had something to say about gifting as a lifestyle. “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the loveable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that.” (The Message)
Lorraine Eby, Sister Care Coordinator, Franklin Mennonite Conference