100 Answers in 100 Days

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Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Effects of One Random Act of Kindness

This weekend I'm in the process of buying a new (used) car. In my experience, if you look online it's just full of "bait" for the old "bait and switch". So what I do is travel around the night before, going from dealership to dealership while they're closed. I choose the car I want and then I turn up first thing the following morning and buy the car I've already decided on. So this is what I was doing last night. Picture the following scene in your mind, then. It was around 10:00pm and at this point I've reached a dealership right on the outskirts of the city. I'm basically on a freeway in the middle of nowhere, walking past a car dealership. The occasional car whizzes by, but you'd hardly expect any pedestrians out here at this hour. Nevertheless, as I start heading back to my parked vehicle, I hear footsteps behind me. I turn and look to see a fairly young bloke hiking along with a backpack. Whatever... I just keep walking. But I hear that he's quickened up his pace. Just as I get to my car I hear him call out to me, "Hey, buddy!" He's pretty close to me now. I turn to him and he stops. He holds up his hands and says "Hey, don't worry... I'm not going to pull a knife or anything..." Well, that's reassuring. "I just wanna say something." Ok... He comes nearer and he says, "Look, I'm not propositioning you or anything... I don't want anything from you... I just want to give you some money. Here..." He keeps his distance, and he draws out his wallet slowly. "Here, I just want to give you this $20, ok. Years ago a man helped me out when I was total stranger to him, and I just, you know... wanna pay the world back or whatever. Ok? You might need it for petrol or something." Well, a lot flashed through my mind at this point, but I came to a conclusion. I reached out my hand and said, "Ok... thanks, man. That's awesome!" I took the money and he backed away from me before turning around and carrying on in the direction he was headed. I got back in my car and drove off, a little dazed and confused.

Now, this seemed like a very rare act to me. People usually begrudge giving an out-and-out beggar 50 cents, and yet this guy wanted to give some total stranger $20, though there was no indication at all that I actually needed any money. In fact, (it may not have occurred to him), but I was out looking at cars to buy... I'm far from being in any kind of financial need. I don't know if this guy is a Christian (though this place is close to one of the city's largest Churches), but he gave no indication that he was. In fact, he said he wanted to "pay the world back", indicating more of a belief in some kind of Karma than in the Christian God. But nevertheless, his act reminded me of something in my life...

Having no need of the money I took it anyway. Why? Well, I suppose that in all honesty, part of it is that I was in an awkward situation and just taking the money would be the quickest way out of it. But more than that, what he was doing reminded me of myself as a very young and rather immature Christian. I'd been a Christian for probably just 6 months, and as I have testified many times before, true faith leads to a change in your very character, and I could already see these changes in my life. I wanted so much to give to those in need. One day at Church I was chatting to a fellow who said to me, "I'm so worried about work... they don't have any clients at the moment and the whole business is in danger! I'm worried that I might not have a job soon!" And so I felt moved with compassion for this guy. I put $100 in an envelope and gave it to him the following Sunday. But when he saw it, he tried his hardest to be nice about it, but he handed it straight back saying, "No, you misunderstood, I'm not a person in need! Put your money towards people who really need it!" And I just felt so embarrassed! He and his wife probably never did mock me, but I couldn't help at least feel that they were mocking me behind my back. I really felt quite humiliated. And so when this fellow offered me $20 for no reason, I immediately saw myself there, and so I graciously took the money. Whether this guy is a somewhat immature Christian (offering money to those who don't need it), or whatever the case may be, the worst thing I could do is anything to discourage him from doing such good deeds as this!

Folks, if you want to give, give to those in need! I don't say this in words of boasting, but $20 is nothing to me. Nevertheless, even for me this fellow's good deed has had a tremendous effect. Here I have received $20, and it's not in me to think "Wow, what can I buy for myself now?" but rather I think to myself that, if this fellow gave to me who has no need, how much more, now more than ever, will I be prepared to offer help to others who are in need? It has stirred up that generous spirit within me. And I think to myself, even if your giving is somewhat misguided, you really can't go wrong! Your giving encourages others to give also, even as this fellow told me that "years ago a man helped him out when he was a total stranger to him." Whereas I had once seen giving to those who aren't in need as "foolish and immature", I see now that even this kind of act is full of virtue. And it touches my heart to think that God chose me to receive this "misdirected generosity", as it has caused me to re-consider the effect that my giving to that fellow at Church might have had on that family. Perhaps, rather than mock me, they were somewhat affected by my act as I have been by this stranger's giving toward me; and maybe they too were inspired to be more generous toward others themselves?

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

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