My husband, a genuine extrovert, loves people. I do, too, but as an introvert, I love them from a greater distance than he. Socially, we perfectly exemplify the “opposites attract” notion. Wherever we go, my husband extends our time out by stopping to chat with whomever he can engage in conversation. In the neighborhood, I’m known only as “oh, you’re that lady whose husband . . . .” And that’s just fine with me.
Last year, a young couple with three little children moved in next door. Normally, my gregarious husband would know their names by now, but all we generally do is wave at them. Other than adding a smile, that’s about it. They moved to the United States from Myanmar and speak, I think, Burmese. Although I taught English for many years and know a bit of French, and my husband knows an ounce of German, we are both ill-equipped to speak Burmese.
Obviously, language has created a barrier for us. These folks seem sweet and their children appear well-behaved, but we know little else about them. We have introduced ourselves as best we could, but it is impossible to effectively carry on a conversation with them. They came to our garage sale last spring. I could not answer their questions about the items they were interested in, but they made several purchases after we jotted down some prices for them. Numbers do translate.
Last summer, we took them a Ziploc bag of freshly-picked red raspberries from our backyard. Judging by the amount of smiling and vigorous nodding, they appeared to be delighted with our small gift.
We did not see them much over the winter months, but once in a while we heard their oldest child (probably about six years old) outside blowing the whistle we had given him at the garage sale. (We know they are smart when they send the child outside to play with a whistle!!) We get a kick out of hearing him blow a few times before walking back indoors.
This week, I shared another token of friendship with the sweet momma. I had made Mother’s Day gifts for our church ladies – a teacup glued to a saucer and filled with a lovely, live plant. I had a couple extra after the others were delivered, so I decided to share one with her.
I do not know her name, but I couldn’t miss her excitement when I held out my gift to her. She was bubbling and grinning and trying to show her two tiny girls. As her husband came in from working in the backyard, he, too, had a big smile when he saw the plant. I received much handshaking and multiple bows. Then he followed me back across the driveway to help me with the gate as I tried to maneuver two grandchildren, one in my arms and one walking at my side, into the yard and keep our two dogs contained at the same time. His assistance was greatly appreciated.
And I understood all of it! So did they.
We understood because kindness and thoughtfulness know no barrier. Their language is universal.
Regardless of the lack of words, I enjoyed a delightful exchange with my neighbors. Kindness did the communicating for each of us.
I wish I could assure my readers I always remember to show kindness. I don’t. The purpose of this post is not to brag, but rather to remind myself of my need to excel in kindness. I think the memory of the sweet exchange with my foreign friends will serve as a reminder for many days ahead. I hope so. Some day I hope to walk across a bridge built by kindness in order to share the love of Jesus with them.
Although kindness often costs little to nothing, its value remains priceless. Being kind might require a few moments, a quick word or action, or the exercise of a smile directed toward a stranger. It could cost us a spot in a grocery line or traffic lane. It might entail the bending of a back or a knee. Perhaps it will mean someone else gets the credit. But the result brings joy. It could change someone’s entire outlook on life, causing them to realize there are still nice people who care or, perhaps, ease a burden they’ve been carrying. Yet, even when kindness seems unappreciated, the doer still finds satisfaction.
And our deeds are noticed. By-standers see it. Our families see it. And, most importantly, God sees it. God is, by nature, kind. Surely His heart rejoices when His children follow His example.
Never before have I been so impressed with the value of kindness, a universally understood language. I hope my actions will do a lot more “talking” from now on!
“And be ye kind one to another.”