When I was a little girl, my family used to visit my grandparents in Iowa. Grandma was always so kind and generous; it was like she couldn’t give me enough.
I must have been about 8 or 9 when, on one particular visit, she presented me with some gift. I remember being so moved that I went to my room and cried like a baby. I was so touched by her love.
Something like that happened to me recently. I didn’t run to my room crying, but I was profoundly affected, and I think I’ll always remember it.
I had screwed up. I got confused with times, and missed a very important appointment. In a panic, I made a phone call and someone covered for me.
I deserved a tongue-lashing. I deserved to have my butt chewed out for being so irresponsible.
Instead I experienced deep and genuine kindness that still has me thinking about it a week later. The person who covered for me jumped in and did it with an amazing attitude, one that I’m sure was better than anything I would have mustered in the same situation.
I saw the Divine. And it changed me.
I realized something profound: True character is revealed when it is inconvenienced.
The next day I stopped by a department store to pick up something. Seeing the various checkout line options, I headed for the “10 items or less” line only to realize that the folks in front of me had two entire baskets full of purchases. (That’s WAY more than 10 items!) However, I was somehow filled with much grace for these dear people and all their stuff. I didn’t get upset. I didn’t give them dirty looks. I didn’t even think to myself how terrible they were for choosing that checkout line.
I had been shown incredible kindness and generosity just the day before. So how could I be unkind and selfish in this situation?
We never know the circumstances surrounding people and events. We are tempted to judge and accuse. Maybe we need to give people a break more often than they deserve.
I define judgment as getting what you deserve, and mercy as not getting what you deserve.
I want to remember to pay it forward often; maybe you will to.
You may make a difference more profound than you could ever imagine.
Epilogue: Just after I finished writing this article, I went to lock my back door. The key was very hard to turn, so I decided to shoot a little WD40 into the lock. Shazam! The key slid right in and turned like it’s supposed to.
Then it hit me. How many situations in our lives and relationships would be so much better if we just lubricated them a little?! It doesn’t always take an act of congress or a lot of money to make something better; sometimes it just needs a little kindness.
Image by Noel Scott; used with permission.