I used to think kindness was all about the money. Boy was I wrong. Anyone can walk by a beggar on the street and throw some coins in a can. But the person who stops, kneels down, looks that beggar in the eye and says, “Hey, I care about you because my creator cares about you” is the person who truly unveils the power of kindness.
My friend Ann sent me this touching story. She says the experience wasn’t about the money, it was about the message.
“It had been a long day. I worked and ran lots of errands before arriving at the library to support a friend who was having a public art show. It was an amazing opportunity for her and I wanted to be there to share in her joy. But man I was tired.
“As I was waiting for the event to begin I noticed a young man sitting on a bench outside the library. He was wearing a sweatshirt and sweatpants and the only skin I could see was his tattoo-covered hands. His head was hanging low. Texting fast and steady, he never looked up the entire time I was watching him. Who was he waiting for? He had a story and I guessed it was a hard one. He just looked sad.
“When I came out of the art show, I noticed he was still there, sitting all alone with his phone. He hadn’t moved in over an hour and a half. I started to pass and then I just couldn’t. My legs stopped in their tracks. I quietly asked, ‘Are you doing okay, sir?’ He looked up with a startled face and answered quickly, ‘Um. Yeah.’
“I told him I noticed he had been sitting in the same spot for over an hour and wondered if he was waiting on someone. He explained that a friend had planned to pick him up, but now couldn’t. He had been texting his mom who lives a few hours away in Columbus asking her what he should do. He knew no one, didn’t know the area and wasn’t sure how to get home.
“I reached in my purse and pulled out three $5 bills. I handed it to him and told him there was a cheap commuter bus which travels between Columbus and Athens once or twice a day.
“I said to him, ‘Look at me. Tell me you will use this money to take the bus home.’ He stared in disbelief. His eyes filled with tears. He took the three bills and said, ‘Are you an angel?’ He seriously was so shocked by the generosity that he meant the question.
“I looked straight in his broken eyes and said, ‘I am not an angel. I could be exactly where you are right now. If I got what I deserved I would have absolutely nothing. Nothing! God had mercy on me, and when I gave my life to him, he took the broken pieces of my life and fixed it. I am blessed beyond measure. Not an angel, but a follower of Christ. Turn from whatever path you are on and follow him. Things will get better.’
“He said, ‘I’ve been sitting here for hours asking my mom, what can I possibly do to get out of this situation? I have no one. No one cares for me. How did you know I needed this money to get home? Why me?’
“I pass people with little signs every day. Homeless. Hungry. Need help. I look and I pass. I don’t intend to ever hand money out to a drug user. Not always are we led to act. But sometimes we are. Sometimes we need to allow the God of all creation to move in someone’s life even if you don’t know why. Do what the Spirit says to do. Obey. It might not be about food or bus money. It might be about a lonely, desperate young man, who just needs to be told and shown he is worth it.
“As I got up to leave, his hand reached for mine. ‘I’m Rob,’ he said with a smile on his face. ‘I’m Ann. I’m praying for you tonight, Rob, that the bus will get you home and that God will bless you and keep you.’
“I’m glad I was kind. It felt good to know the gift I gave him had nothing to do with money.”
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.