What do you do with a kind gesture?

Are you good at returning a kindness? When someone does something nice for you, do you reciprocate? Or, do you pass along the kindness? Or do you just think, “that was nice of them,” and go on about your business?

I often tell the story of my mother leaving Arkansas for California, back in the late 1930s, with two small children and everything she and my father owned crowded into a Model A Ford. Just as they were ready to pull out, a lady from church came up the driveway to say goodbye and give my mother a twenty dollar bill. That was big money in the depression/dust bowl era. My mother was reluctant to take the money, saying she would never be able to pay it back.

The church lady assured her she didn’t need the money to be paid back, but rather for my mother to find someone else to help once she reached California. My mother was always on the lookout for someone to help. It might have been a family with small children whose home burned. Perhaps the lady whose husband just died. Or it might have been the hobo who came to the backdoor, asking for a bite to eat. My mother was generous.

Because I grew up seeing that generosity (my dad also did things for people in the small farming community in which we lived), I’m often on the lookout for those in need and ask myself, “how can I help?” Sometimes there is nothing I can do. Or I don’t feel compelled to help at that particular time, believing others will step in and take care of the situation. Because there are so many needs, I now try to contain my help to my small corner of the community. Otherwise, I would feel overwhelmed.

I am fortunate and richly blessed and don’t need much assistance. For now. I’m hopeful that should I need help, there would be those to come to my aid, like the lady in Arkansas who showed up with the $20. That those who have been helped would step up and help out when presented with a need, like my mother did all those years in California. I just hope that you don’t become so accustomed to kind acts that you come to expect them as your due, never paying them back or forward.

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7 responses to “What do you do with a kind gesture?

  1. I like to think that I’m a generous person, but these days I can begin to feel overwhelmed at all the need around me. I give where and whenever I can.

    • Yes, the demands can be overwhelming. My heart breaks on a daily basis for what I see happening yet I cannot save the world, or even the corner where God has placed me. So, with broken heart, I pray for insight as to where and when I should act. I think of the sisters st the Greek monastery I’ve visited. Their work is to pray for the world. I leave that task to them.

  2. I love stories of kindness.

  3. I believe in helping where I can, and asking people to do the same. “Pay it forward.”

  4. It’s a huge Asian thing that when someone gives you something, you have to reciprocate. I love the concept of passing it forward though. We do try our best.

  5. Playing it forward is a lesson that I hope to remember more than I do. I have been so blessed in my life by those whom have come to my aid. I try to see opportunities to give, to share, to help, but more often than I’d like to admit, I live in my isolated bubble.

    • Sally, I see your life as one of giving–to your family, to your community, to your school chums. You are quite active in those areas and seem to be very conscientious about giving back. I would never say you live in a bubble.

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