Last week, I went to the hospital with my sister-in-law while she had out patient surgery. After the surgery got underway, I drove around looking for lunch. The best I could find without going too far was a Kroger. So I went in, bought some bottled water and a power bar. Then I headed toward the register. I wasn’t really satisfied with what I had gotten so I was walking slowly, checking the aisle out to see if I could find something to go with my power bar when a woman surprised me.
“Get in line ahead of me,” she said.
I wasn’t done looking and I wasn’t ready to get in line.
“Get in line ahead of me,” she said aggressively, almost pleading.
I wondered if she had one of those “Do One Random Act of Kindness Every Day During Advent” calendars like the one I posted on my Facebook page the other day. Her face was not a particularly kind one. She didn’t seem to be doing this out of the kindness of her heart. But it was really important to her that I do what she said. What was her story, I wondered?
I actually started to get in front of her.
Then I realized that there were three customers with big carts of groceries in front of her. I looked at my two items and over at the self-check out and said, “Thanks, but it looks like self-check out is a better choice for me.”
To which she responded, “Do whatever you want then.” As if I had ruined her day.
Random Acts of Kindness. Are they really expressions of love?
Maybe. But not all the time and not in every circumstance. And they can be kinda shallow.
I heard of a church youth group that randomly decided to do something nice for a group of homeless families that had set up camp in a dilapidated and abandoned church. The youth director asked, “What can we do for the kids living in that old church building?”
Someone said, “I bet they would love to have popcorn.”
Everyone agreed that would be a great gift. They would immediately go buy those microwaveable popcorn boxes and take them over to the church. It was an awesome random act of kindness. They couldn’t wait to see the reaction on the homeless kids’ faces.
It’s a random act of kindness. It’s nice. It’s loving. Right?
Not if you don’t have a microwave. Not if you don’t have electricity. Not if you are homeless. The microwaveable popcorn was completely unhelpful and only reminded the homeless kids of how bad off they really were.
Love gets to know the people it is kind to. Love asks the other person what they think they need and addresses the need. Love is bigger and better than random acts of kindness. Now I am not suggesting we stop being kind to random people. I am suggesting that we not think that random acts of kindness are all we need to do.
God calls us into relationships so that we can truly serve each other. Intentional acts of love always trump random acts of kindness. Always.