“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.” (Acts 28:1-2)
Have you ever read a story on social media about someone who did something over-the-top for a stranger? Like tipping a server not just the standard 20 percent, but maybe 500 percent? I love hearing about stories of excessive thoughtfulness, but social media isn’t the only place we find them.
Tucked inside of the New Testament is a two-word phrase that jumped off the pages of my Bible one day. It rearranged my thinking and gave me a subtle shift of perspective that has enabled me to view each day as an opportunity. It’s a straightforward concept that usually costs little, except for time.
It happened when I was reading Acts 28:1-2, a story about some unnamed natives who lived on a remote island where a boatload of people, including the apostle Paul, suddenly found themselves shipwrecked in the middle of a storm. “Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness.”
Unusual kindness. These were the two words that jumped off the page and caused me to pause and re-think. The islanders’ welcoming behavior toward the group of strangers was so uncommon that scripture doesn’t just chronicle this encounter with the single word, “kindness.” Instead, the adjective, “unusual”, was intentionally linked to their kindness.
What made me pause when reading the story was the reason given for their above-and-beyond behavior. It doesn’t say this unusual kindness was shown because Paul and his companions were important people. Nope. It doesn’t declare that the welcome and warmth was given because the people from the shipwreck had the exact political and theological views as the islanders. No again. They were treated with this unusual kindness because it was simply raining and cold.
Today, we encounter all sorts of people who are up against the elements, perhaps not physically with rain or cold, but in life somehow. We happen upon these people, sometimes knowingly, and other times, unknowingly. They might be people already in our everyday lives and those who show up unexpectantly. Every day we have an opportunity to model the Malta natives’ behavior and morph our acts of ordinary kindness into the “unusual” category…
- Ordinary kindness holds the door open for an elderly person leaving the grocery store. “Unusual kindness” willingly carries their groceries all the way to their car, puts them in the trunk and sends them on their way with an, “It was my pleasure,” when thanked.
- Ordinary kindness is smiling at the stressed-out mom of two young kids who are having a fit in church, rather than staring in stone-faced silence and judging her parenting skills. “Unusual kindness” recognizes all children misbehave and this mom is outnumbered. So, we tell her to hang in there, reassure her that she’s doing an important job bringing her children to church while slipping her a $10 bill and telling her to buy herself a large latte because she’s going to need something to keep up her energy.
- Ordinary kindness whispers a prayer for someone who is alone and experiencing health issues. “Unusual kindness” is making a personal visit, bringing a meal to enjoy with them and praying together.
So, don’t wait. Start today. Upgrade your ordinary acts of kindness to the category of “unusual” and start scattering it to others – those in your everyday life and those who, like the boatload of people who landed on the island of Malta, randomly and unexpectantly show up. When you do, know that you will make their day and yours, too!
Reflect and Respond:
Has someone ever shown you what you would consider unusual kindness? How did it make you feel? List two or three ways you might display kindness toward someone within your sphere of influence in a way that’s beyond the ordinary. Then, make plans to carry out one of these ideas in the next week.