Several years ago, I sat in my car at a gas station in Phoenix, AZ, watching two young boys shuffle self-consciously from car to car. They approached each driver, spoke softly, nodded solemnly, and moved dejectedly forward. This went on for several minutes. Finally, they collapsed in their own car. By the look of desperation on their faces, I imagined they were out of gas – and money. After a moment or two more, I got out my gas card and slowly approached the boys’ car. “Excuse me,” I offered tentatively. “Are you in need of some fuel?” Both boys stared at me, momentarily speechless. Finally the driver spoke up, “yes; we’re trying to get across the desert to my mom’s house and we don’t have enough gas…and, we ran out of money,” he added shoving his hands in his pockets and turning them inside out, “pretty embarrassing.”  I smiled. “Well, I’d be happy to fill up your tank for you.” His face softened and his shoulders relaxed a bit. “Really? That would be great!”

Once their vehicle was gassed up, I wished the boys well, excused myself , and turned to walk back to my car. “Mam…” the driver’s voice trailed off. “Yes?” I turned to face him. He shifted nervously. “Thank you very much, that was awfully nice of you.” He hesitated slightly. Then continued, “Why were you so kind to us?” I smiled again. “I’ve had many people help me when I needed it,” I continued. “Today it was my turn to help you; someday you will have an opportunity to help someone in need. We all need a little help now and then. That’s what God’s love is all about. Understand?” He grinned. I turned toward my car. He waved and yelled after me, “Oh yes, mam, I get it, and I certainly will do something kind for someone the next time I can – thank you, thank you again!”

I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. Kindness feels good.

The problem with kindness? There is no problem. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.” You will be criticized for being kind. Be kind anyway.

I have been extremely blessed. I’m not talking about wealth or material possessions or good fortune. I’m talking about being rich in relationships. I recently had the privilege of celebrating a special milestone birthday. It was special, not because it was a “milestone”, but because I spent it with lots of people I care about. Family and friends who have all blessed me at one time or another by extending love and kindness in immeasurable amounts. Some of them have sat with me during some of the darkest moments of my life, when life was at its most painful, and helped me begin again when I thought my life was over. Have you ever been there? When someone believed in you, even though you didn’t believe in yourself? When someone extended a hand of support when life knocked you down? When someone walked through the darkness of fear with you until you could see the light of hope again? Those are the hands of God: “Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.” Proverbs 3:27. (The Message)  

Be kind. Be kind to people you know. Be kind to people you don’t know. We all need kindness. I believe our kindness to one another is an extension of God’s love for us.

Hope whispers, Be kind.

I could have just driven away from the gas station that day, and chosen not to get involved because those boys didn’t come ask me for help. Or I could have reasoned that they didn’t “deserve” help, because they budgeted poorly for their trip and it’s not my problem that they don’t have enough gas money. But something stirred in me and told me to help. When kindness is the driving force behind action, the payoff is joy – for both the giver and the receiver. Sometimes we deserve help; sometimes we don’t. We all hit tough times now and again because of poor choices. Sure, sometimes we get blindsided due to circumstances beyond our control. But I can attest there are plenty of times when my misfortune has been caused by my own stupidity. And yet, God reaches his Hand to me through the hands of others. Others who have loved me, without judgment. Others who have helped me in my times of need, without asking for a thing in return. Can you think of a time when someone helped you even though you didn’t deserve it?

What if we all decided we are the hands of God, the next time we see someone in need and we choose to respond in kindness? If hope were a currency, maybe then we would all be wealthy!