Julio Diaz gets off the train like it’s any other day. His mind is fixed on grabbing a bite to eat at his favorite café. It’s an ordinary day in an ordinary place, and nothing about the day leads Julio to believe he might change someone’s life forever through the unforeseen chain of events that will soon unfold.
As Julio gets off the train, a young teenager approaches with a knife. The teen wants Julio’s wallet.
After giving up the wallet, Julio turns to the young man and hands him his coat, saying, “If you’re gonna be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”
What kind of love is this?
I put myself in the place of the young man with the knife. Surely he was overcome with shock. Disbelief. Awe.
Because really, haven’t we all been the boy with the knife – thinking only of self, thinking only of immediate needs and the flesh and moving up in the world for our own purposes. Not thinking a single thing of how our actions might affect someone else on a practical level.
Julio convinces the young man to join him for dinner, and he says to the boy, “What is it that you want out of life?”
The boy doesn’t know. His expression is filled with sorrow. And really, haven’t most of us faced this dilemma? The empty canvas of our lives leaves room for endless possibilities, but we feel utterly stuck. Utterly clueless.
When the bill for dinner comes, Julio convinces the boy to return his wallet and treats him to dinner. He offers the boy twenty dollars in exchange for one item: the knife. The boy agrees, and for Julio, the story seems to end here.
I read this story on The Daily Good news sight not long ago, and it seems the story ends with Julio’s gift of money and the boy’s surrender of the knife. But surely, the story doesn’t end here.
Maybe the boy grew up to be a respectable man. Maybe he quit threatening people and asking for their money. Or maybe he went out the next evening and robbed ten more people. We might never know.
But what we do know is that an act of kindness never falls on blind eyes. Even when no one notices, even when it seems our sacrifice failed to make the difference we hoped, God sees every quiet act of act of kindness, and he is pleased.
It’s easy to grow frustrated when our kindness is met with disdain. It’s easy to throw in the towel when our sacrifice doesn’t seem to make the slightest bit of difference in another person’s life. Choose kindness anyway.
When a family member crosses you, and your blood boils wildly, choose kindness. Choose it if no one will see. Choose it if you don’t think you can.
When a young mom or elderly man struggles to put groceries in the car, choose kindness. When your toddler throws his seventeenth fit of the day, choose kindness. When you’re cut off in traffic, choose kindness. When it’s entirely tempting to have the last word – when you know you can win this verbal showdown – choose kindness.
I spent a decade as a youth leader at the church we’ve attended for eleven years. Throughout the years, I joined teens on trips to places like Brooklyn and Tijuana. I spent sleepless nights counseling hurting girls, sacrificed family time to invest in young lives, and poured my heart into the ministry.
There were times when I was met with defiance instead of gratitude and criticism instead of kindness. There were times when I wondered if the investment was worthwhile.
Years later, I now have the opportunity to see some of the fruit from those years. Many of the teens have grown to adults and moved away; however, a few remain. They live near our hometown, where they now serve as youth leaders, teachers, Bible study leaders, and loving contributors to ministries ranging from raising their own children to serving in very public careers.
We never know where the ripple-effects of our kindness might reach. Even when it seems to make no difference at all, choose kindness. And above all, remember that your kindness pleases your Maker. His pleasure is reason enough in itself.