Not-so-random acts of kindness

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I have an excellent eBay profile. Of all the feedback posted about me, I'm proudest of this one: "prompt payment and a kind, personable transaction." It's not that I'm on a campaign to beef up my profile. If anything, mine is a campaign to be kinder and more personable.

I admit, I used to walk up to most checkout counters too focused on my own problems to pay much notice to the sales clerks. And, frankly, most of them were equally preoccupied with their own lives. But somewhere along the way I noticed that the person across the counter could use a little more consideration. So now (like many other people I've observed of late), I always take a moment to say, "How's it going?" and actually mean it.

Why bother? I think it started with something Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy said in her primary book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." Speaking of Jesus, she wrote, "He was inspired by God, by Truth and Love, in all that he said and did" (page 51).

Somehow, that statement struck me as highly significant. Imagine going through life having every transaction, from the mundane to the sublime, infused with an inspiration of Truth and Love. At that point in my own life I was certainly yearning for deeper meaning and satisfaction. I thought it would come about through a major change in my circumstances - in my job or my home life. But it seemed to me the book was saying that we, too, have access to an inspiration that instills the most mundane activities with deeper meaning.

I admit I was used to thinking of inspiration as something that comes in flashes, sort of like lightning. You never know when it's going to hit, and when it does, you'd better make the most of it. But as I thought about Jesus being inspired "in all that he said and did," a shift took place in my thinking. If God is the source of inspiration, then a sort of hit-or-miss, on-again-off-again inspiration would imply that God is on again, off again. Such a narrow concept hardly does justice to ever-present, all-knowing Spirit.

So I've come to think of inspiration less as a burst, and more as a deep, calm well. If I get sidetracked, too busy to go to the well, I miss out. But the well is always there. As the Apostle James said, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8).

The very fact that I feel empty and uninspired really should nudge me to "draw nigh to God," to pause in the midst of my busy-ness and share a moment of kindness with a fellow human being. Whenever I do, I see immediately what a difference it makes in my day, not to mention for the people I meet along the way.

I often think, as I'm waiting in the checkout line, of a corresponding vignette in the book of John in the Bible. Jesus was sitting by a well, when a woman he didn't know came to draw water. Their conversation began with him asking for a drink, but it quickly developed into a discussion so profound that she left her water pot at the well and ran to tell her friends, "Is not this the Christ?" (see John, chapter 4). Talk about inspired! A simple meeting takes on such significance that we're still reading about it 2,000 years later.

Henry Drummond, a respected Scottish evangelist and author, wrote in his book, "The Greatest Thing in the World," "Have you ever noticed how much of Christ's life was spent in doing kind things - in merely - doing kind things?...

"I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are? How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered."

This week is "Random Acts of Kindness Week," and that's good. Random acts of kindness sure beat random acts of violence. But I think next year we should lobby for "Sustained, Inspired Acts of Kindness Week." On second thought, why wait?

Be ye kind one to another.

Ephesians 4:32

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