Martin Wiles: Kindness Revisited
Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly.~Psalm 112:5 NLT
Amazing how the sight of a Blue Bell Ice Cream truck can resurrect memories.
During one of my morning walks, I noticed the Blue Bell delivery man loading his buggy to cart ice cream into a local grocery store. But as much as I enjoy Blue Bell Ice Cream, this sight stirred memories of another type of ice cream—and another kind of man.
My grandfather worked for the same company all his life. He began by delivering blocks of ice, then transitioned to bottles of milk. By the time I arrived, he delivered ice cream. And during my later elementary years and all my middle school years, I spent my summers helping him.
What more could a young boy ask for than to get free ice cream, free lunches, free sodas, and twenty dollars weekly in salary? I could think of nothing more as I labored beside my grandfather in the sultry Lowcountry Southern temperatures. Of course, listening to his stories provided more comfort than the coldest drink or ice cream delight.
But all the stories—along with the fringe benefits—couldn’t surpass what made the greatest impression on me as a young boy: my grandfather’s kindness. His kind acts and words were a part of his nature, not something he had to think about or manufacture. Fifty years later, I can still see him performing them and hear him speaking them.
I suppose my grandfather had little reason to show kindness. He could just as well have been bitter. When he was only twelve, his father died, leaving my grandfather to run the family farm. But my grandfather wasn’t bitter.
I never knew my great-grandfather, but I did know my great-grandmother for seventeen years. Like my grandfather, she was kind. Perhaps, my grandfather received his kindness gene from her. Or maybe, he learned it from the many people—especially my great-uncle—who helped him with the farm affairs when he wasn’t old enough to handle them alone.
During the era that I helped my grandfather stock ice cream in restaurants, grocery stores, and Mom-and-Pop retail stores, racial tensions ran at an all-time high, or low. Yet, I watched as my grandfather often took random pieces of ice cream that he knew he couldn’t sell—but that nothing was wrong with—and hand them freely to the little boys and girls of color who congregated around his truck, wanting something cold to soothe their parched throats.
My grandfather’s kindness turned foes into friends and competitors into customers. Everyone who knew him—and that encompassed a great many people—experienced his kindness.
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.~Ephesians 4:32 NLT
The one thing that remains foremost in my mind concerns what he regularly did at the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store—the place he shopped weekly but also the place he visited daily to pick up what he had forgotten or what my grandmother said she needed.
As he passed the freezers where he stocked his ice cream, he stopped to straighten it—on his own time. The thing that impressed me even more was that he also straightened his competitor’s ice cream. He wanted no fanfare, and he never told a soul what he had done. But I saw. I often wondered why he would help a competitor, but I never asked him.
According to the psalmist, good comes to those who conduct their business affairs with kindness. My grandfather did that, but he also conducted all his life affairs the same way. Interestingly, he always had enough to pay his bills—although he earned only a meager salary—and he always had everything he needed—even though he gave many things away.
We can never go wrong by showing kindness to others. Doing so will make the world a better place, even when our acts of kindness are not appreciated or reciprocated. And doing so will always please our Heavenly Father.
What act of kindness can you do for someone today?
Father God, help me to be as kind to others as You are to us.
In Jesus Christ’s Name. Amen.
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