A kindness you show today may bless you or someone you love at the least expected moment.

Here is a great story to demonstrate how. . .

During a hot summer, many years ago, a poor young man was hiking through a rural area in the Eastern United States. For days he trudged past farms and woodlands, looking for work in town after town. He was determined to pay his college tuition.

One afternoon, he felt especially fatigued, hungry and thirsty. His pockets were empty except for one coin—a nickel (5 cents, worth perhaps a dollar in today’s U.S. currency), so the young man decided to stop at the next farm and ask for some food and water.

When a pretty teenaged girl opened the door, he changed his mind. A bit embarrassed, he asked only for a drink of water. The girl left him on the porch and went to the kitchen. She told her mother the young man on the porch looked tired and hungry.

A few minutes later the girl returned with a plate of food and a tall glass of milk. Gratefully, the young man sat down to a nourishing meal right there on the porch. He especially enjoyed the milk. When he had finished, he knocked on the door again. As he handed the girl the empty plate and glass, he asked, “How much do I owe you?”

“You don’t owe us anything for the meal,” she responded.

“May I give you something for the milk?” he said.

The girl shook her head. “Oh no, sir, we never take money for showing kindness.”

“Then I thank you from my heart,” he answered.

As he left that farm, Howard Kelly felt refreshed in body and spirit. His faith was strengthened, his sense of purpose renewed.

Many years later that same girl, then a middle-aged woman became critically ill. Unable to help her, the local doctors sent her to a big city hospital where it was determined that she had a rare disease. This case required the attention of a highly trained specialist, so Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for a consultation.

When he heard the name of the patient’s home town, a strange look came over the doctor’s face. He went to her room. Although time and cancer had greatly altered her appearance, he recognized her immediately. From that day Dr. Kelly attended to her case. He was determined to do his best to save her life. After many grim setbacks, the treatment was successful.

Knowing the final bill was being prepared, Dr. Kelly asked the business office to send it to him for approval. He made a notation at the top and then had the bill sent to her room. The patient feared to open it. She was sure that paying this bill would take her the rest of her life. With a sigh, she slid the multi-paged bill from its envelope. Some hand-written scrawl at the top caught her attention. She read these words: “Paid in full with one glass of milk. Dr. Howard Kelly.”

At first she did not understand. Then she made the connection. Could this famous doctor really be the young man from the porch?! Tears began to flow as speechless wonder turned to joy. She whispered, “Thank you, God, for the miraculous way you spread your love through human hearts and hands.”

(This story is based on an actual experience of Dr. Howard Kelly, the distinguished physician who founded the Johns Hopkins Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Johns Hopkins University in 1895).

Even if we never become aware of a specific return, it is a privilege to make the world a better place.

Giving is its own joyful reward and it offers other benefits as well. An Indian proverb reminds us, “No one’s head aches when he is comforting another.” U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy once said: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of [our] generation.”

So take time each day to do small acts of compassion. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

1. Share loads of smiles. We all smile in the same language. Smiles dissolve distance between us. Give a smile to a stranger each day. For all you know it may be the only sunshine he sees that day. American author Washington Irving once wrote, “A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles.” Ask God to help you live with a smile in your heart and in your voice.

2. Give the gift of listening. We all love to be heard, don’t we? Let’s offer another person the present of letting them express their ideas and beliefs. Be a gentle sounding board to someone who needs it.

3. Offer simple, sincere compliments. Focus on the good in others. Bypass the shortcomings, notice the beautiful. Admire the sparkle in another’s eyes, the energy people around you bring to their work, the courage and humour with which someone faces life’s ups and downs. When we reflect to others the good we see, we discover a truth: the desire to be seen and appreciated is one of the deepest yearnings of every human being. Often, the greatest good we can do for others is not to share our strong points but to reveal theirs.

4. Express appreciation. Write little personal notes of encouragement to people on your team at work, to your friends who go the extra mile for you, or to someone you know from a distance who is having a hard time.

5. Share the resources you have today. Give what you have now: a loaf of bread, a few plantains, the extra pair of shoes sitting in your closet, a book that inspired you, the extra naira in your pocket that means nothing to you but would mean something to a mom trying to feed her children. The small tokens we offer can have a profound impact on others. You don’t have to have big reserves to make a difference in another person’s life.

Please share your ideas (in the comments below) on small acts of compassion that can help make Nigeria better or your stories of how someone’s compassion made a big impact on your life.

Food For Thought

“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”

Charles H. Spurgeon.


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