“The year was 1942; the world was at war. The state of Florida was still in a depression. And 50 cents was a lot of money in those days,” recalls Marilyn Irlbacher.
Little Marilyn was only 8 years old at the time, living in a less than desirable foster care home. And she owed her school 50 cents for some lost books. Unless she paid the fine, Marilyn wouldn’t get her report card.
After hearing this worrisome news, Marilyn ran from the school house in tears. She didn’t have any money. And the very thought of asking her foster parents for the money terrified her. As she ran down the street, she didn’t see the tall man in her path until she ran into him.
“Here’s the rest of the story” In her own words.
“He asked me what was the matter, and I told him about the 50 cents. He reached into his pocket, took out two quarters, and in a kind voice said, ‘Things will be all right now.’
“Overjoyed to have the money, I paid for the books, got my report card, and shortly thereafter, my mother was able to take me back to live with her.
“To this day, every act of generosity I perform, every dime I give to a cause, is in honor of that man. I don’t remember his face. I only recall his brown shoes, which I saw first when I ran into him. His kindness to a crying child made all the difference in my life.”
In one of the great Bible verses, we’re encouraged, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph 4:32)
Consider these three virtues that should characterize our Christian life.
(1) Be kind
The word “kind” means to be “virtuous, pleasant, good, mild and proper.” This admonition may be expressed as “do good to people,” or “be helpful to people.”
When I think of kindness, I’m reminded of the little girl saying her bed-time prayers who closed with these words: “And Lord, help the bad people to be good, and help the good people to be kind.” Sometime good people just need a gentle reminder to be kind.
Being Kind is being considerate. Patient. Caring. Loving. It is overlooking minor issues. Kindness encourages the weak, the novice, and the timid.
Kindness may be expressed in a word of encouragement to someone who is struggling. A note of thanks for another’s thoughtfulness. A phone call to just say, “Hi, I’m thinking of you” Maybe just a text message with a few kind words? Or a kind Facebook post for someone who is hurting, struggling or lonely.
Kindness may take the form of running an errand for someone. Or babysitting the children of a frazzled mother. Or visiting the sick or shut-in. Kindness may be a birthday card. Anniversary card. A get well card. Or a check in the mail to someone struggling financially.
(2) Be Tenderhearted.
This word speaks to compassion, sympathy and empathy. It was a word the Greeks used to refer to the very essence of one’s emotions. It’s a deep-seated feeling for another.
Kindness is connected to compassion. Compassionate people are kind. And you can’t be kind without compassion.
Compassion understands his brother’s needs. Feels her hurt. Knows their pain. Cares about their problems. Compassion is the ability to bear with, suffer with and sympathize with others stricken by misfortune. And it’s accompanied by a deep desire to relieve the suffering.
(3) Be Forgiving.
It follows that kind and compassion people are willing to forgive other people when wronged.
Jesus said “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. In other words, as George Muller expressed it, “He who fails to forgives others burns the bridge over which he must walk himself.”
A short verse. Simple. Succinct. Yet, powerful. And profound. Three virtues that can make our lives better. And make a difference in the lives of those we touch each day.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman