A travel agent looked up from his desk to see an older lady and an older gentleman peering in the shop window at the posters showing the glamorous destinations around the world. The agent had had a good week and the older man and woman looking in the window gave him a rare feeling of generosity. He called them into his shop and said, “I know that times have been hard and vacations are expensive, so I am sending you off to a fabulous resort at my expense, and I won’t take no for an answer.” He took them inside and asked his secretary to write two flight tickets and book a room in a five star hotel. They, as can be expected, gladly accepted, and were on their way. About a month later the older lady came into his shop. “And how did you like your vacation?” he asked eagerly. “The flight was exciting and the room was lovely,” she said. “I’ve come to thank you. But, one thing puzzled me. Who was that old guy I had to share the room with?” An act of kindness that turned a little awkward. But don’t miss it. A man was in the middle of his work day, looked up, and noticed two elderly people looking at the travel posters. He didn’t look up, notice them, and then dive right back into whatever he was doing. He noticed them. He noticed how they looked at the posters. He noticed the financial hardship. He noticed them long enough to realize that he could bless and help them. As far as we can tell, they didn’t already know each other. They may or may not have voted the same way last election. One may like turkey sandwiches and the other one ham. For a moment, their differences didn’t matter. What mattered was an opportunity for kindness was recognized and offered. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus has a large crowd around him and a man with leprosy kneels before him and asks to be healed. In the Jesus’ day and time crowds and leprosy don’t go together. Leprosy was feared to be highly contagious, lepers were considered outcasts. They lived separately and were seen as untouchable. You only communicated with them from a distance. Yet Jesus touches him, talks with him, and heals him. Jesus broke the rules. Jesus didn’t see the man as a leper but as a human being who was in need of help. Jesus taught us that kindness should go beyond social stereotypes. It might do us all some good to understand the circumstances of others and where they come from. We have plenty of division in the world. We also have plenty of hurt in the world. Mother Teresa, the founder of the Missionaries of Charity of Calcutta, India once said “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” In driving around town I recently saw a sign that said, “One act of kindness can warm three months of cold.” With our recent days of extreme cold, we all could use one act of kindness. There’s one other thing the travel agent and Jesus both did. They noticed. Sometimes it just takes us looking up and noticing what’s going on right in front of us. These opportunities for kindness, the moments to bring healing and hope into the life of someone else can happen if we are just willing to look up. So may you look up and notice the world around you today. May you realize that you have the power to change someone’s life for the better? That you carry with you the ability to bring hope and healing and even a smile to someone’s day and life. May you and I be willing to be a little more like Jesus and spread a little kindness this very day?
Rev. Chlastak is a graduate of Northeast Louisiana University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and has served congregations of the Christian Church in Louisiana, Arkansas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Missouri. He believes that God’s love in Christ extends to all people, and that ours should also.