We were in a hotel enjoying a Sunday brunch a few years ago when I observed a woman standing at the small bar ordering a cocktail. After watching her for a few moments, I discerned she was intoxicated, and I began to worry.
I looked to see who might have accompanied her but soon realized she was alone. I felt strangely uncomfortable and could not keep my eyes off the slim woman. Suddenly, she fell backward onto the floor, hitting her head.
I ran to her, grabbed her hand, and asked if she was in pain. She clutched my fingers as if she did not want to let go. Her glazed eyes investigated my face without speaking a word.
I realized no one moved until I yelled for someone to call 911. Was I thinking unusually fast that day, or did others seem unusually slow? The manager strolled toward us, and as I explained what happened, he, too, was in no hurry to obtain aid until I emphatically said, “Please!”
The omelet stations never missed a beat handing patrons’ plates full of fluffy eggs filled with bacon or ham, nor did the waiters stop pouring coffee. Children kept eating syrup-laden pancakes; a customer asked for another napkin, another for a clean fork, as the woman continued lying still on the floor.
To this day, it has disturbed me that no one, other than one staff member, cared to move from their position of comfort. They all judged the stranger unworthy of their time and consideration because her condition was obviously of her own doing. So, why go to the trouble to offer kindness? Why bother to teach children not to ignore the fallen or never to judge?
The ambulance arrived and drove the woman away as waiters cleared the dishes, and folks proceeded to go about their Sunday morning without pause, leaving compassion on their tables.
I have this theory about living life. Whatever we do not do for another, our callousness will be returned in full measure. It is akin to leaving the shopping cart in the middle of a parking lot and walking away. I figure God just observed our lazy actions, so when we least expect it, a speeding out-of-control cart will plow right into the passenger side of our shiny, new car.
When we miss an opportunity to do the right thing, we choose to ignore the eyes of God, and we always pay the price.
Trust me; I was no hero in the restaurant. Maybe it was just my day to notice unkindness. As I recall that Sunday, I wonder how many times have I overlooked others’ misery and heartache? How many times did I disregard God’s eyes as he gazed upon my transgressions? I guess I will find out when He brings the judgment book to the Pearly Gates. I can guarantee there is going to be reckoning for yours truly.
Since the tattoo parlors are now open, perhaps we should have this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson inked onto our arms: “You cannot do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late.”
How many times have we passed despair, grief, or need and never turned back to offer kindness? Perhaps today is the day we should all start paying better attention. Every act of compassion will result in healing, and open wounds will become scars. And boy, do we require stitches!
Years ago, I worked for a boss who was as harsh as one could imagine. She could lose her temper and behave like a child, but she always responded when she recognized a need.
After making a mistake in my checkbook calculations one month, I realized I did not have enough money to make it to another payday. I had three children to feed and questioned how in the world I was going to get by. To this day, I do not understand how she knew of my plight, but she took my hand and placed a folded $100 bill in my palm.
“Why would you give me this?” I asked her, shaking my head in disbelief.
“She whispered her answer, “God told me.” I believe he did because he understood her heart and knew she would put kindness into motion.
I never again viewed her as harsh; I only saw a soul filled with generosity and empathy.
As Martin Luther King so eloquently said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”
He understood kindness was at the root of human decency, honor, and Godliness. We should never ignore its value nor its immense power.