I was staring into the glass case at the supermarket deli, trying to decide between mesquite or honey turkey as I waited to be helped. “I’ll be right with you, ma’am,” the deli manager yelled my way as he finished up with a customer. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a gentleman walking up to the counter. He was nervously scanning the selection of salads and meats while glancing at his watch and fidgeting with his basket. I could relate, I’d been there before…late to a party or desperate to pick something up for dinner, I’ve run up to this very counter and hoped for a break in the line.
The deli manager came over. “I’m sorry for the wait, ma’am. What can I get for you?” he asked as he slid open the case. “You know,” I said, “I believe this gentleman was next.” I pointed at the guy who was anxiously waiting for his turn. “Actually, I believe you were next,” the manager said confidently as he looked me squarely in the eyes. “That’s okay,” I quickly retorted, realizing he was on to me. “Go ahead and help him.” A couple minutes later the manager was back to assist me. “That was really nice of you,” he said. “Most people wouldn’t do that.” I went on to explain that I’ve been in that same situation and that on this particular evening, I had nothing but time on my hands. “I’m out by myself for an evening of relaxed and quiet shopping at the grocery store,” I said with a smile, “And I don’t have any kids asking me when I’m going to be done and how soon we’ll be home. I actually enjoyed lingering here a couple extra minutes.”
I meandered through the store that night, thinking about all the little ways people had showed me kindness. I was reminded of the movie, Pay It Forward, based on the book of the same title by Catherine Ryan Hyde. The story is about a teacher who starts a movement with this voluntary, extra-credit assignment: Think of an idea for world change, and put it into action. One of the students decides that he is going to do something really special for three people and when they ask him what they can do to pay him back he tells them, “Nothing. Just pay it forward to three more people.” And a chain of kindness begins.
My FH (former husband) and I had some young, single friends come through town when we were first married. They called us when they were a few hours away and asked if they could crash at our house. They showed up earlier than we expected so we had them meet us at work. Realizing that they were probably hungry, we ordered a couple pizzas. It was a sacrifice for us—we were on a fixed income and this was the last of our money until our next paycheck. Our friends (who had been on the road all day) weren’t just hungry, they were ravished! Those pizzas disappeared in a matter of minutes.
We took our guests home, got them settled in for the night and sat down in our kitchen, wondering what we would eat for dinner. It was late and we didn’t have much in our cupboards. I glanced up at the counter and noticed the message light was blinking on our answering machine (yes, this was back in the day). I pushed the play button and heard my neighbor’s voice. She had made soup for dinner and had leftovers, so she had brought them over and left them on our front porch. We opened the front door and there was a container of soup sitting on the welcome mat with a little smiley face sticky note attached. We could hardly believe it.
God had provided for us in our time of need. He had used our neighbor to bring us exactly what we needed when we needed it, even though she had no earthly idea what had transpired that night. We warmed up the soup and thanked God for this amazing gift that was waiting for us when we got home.
The book of Romans encourages us to use the gifts God has given us. Romans 12:6-8 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
I think it’s so interesting that Paul uses the word “gifts.” When I think of gifts, presents come to mind. I forget sometimes that the ideas God puts in our hearts and the personalities He gave us can be given to others as “gifts.”
I believe we are to use what God has given us to reach out to our fellow human beings. I love the words of 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Our lives are all about sowing and reaping. As we sow into the lives of others, we see God’s blessings in our own lives. But more importantly, we get the opportunity to help someone along the way.
We are faced with hundreds of seemingly insignificant choices every day. Should I give a smile to the frazzled mother filling up her gas tank next to me? Should I let someone over to my lane as I make my way down the road? Should I take five minutes to write a note to a friend who I’ve been thinking about? We all have these small thoughts running through our heads. Sometimes we respond, and sometimes we don’t. But responding is like having a double-dip ice cream cone, it gives an opportunity for us to touch someone else’s life, and opens a door for our hearts to be filled. Plus it allows us to exercise our God-given gifts. Each of us will get these little promptings today, and if we take the time to love and care, it will bring us just as much joy as it brings the other person.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.