Never Too Busy to Be Kind
Make every effort to add to your faith goodness,
and to add to your goodness . . . kindness. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
"I've just come to tell you that I have to leave the school, but I wanted to thank you for everything." The high school senior was being brave as she spoke to the headmaster in his office.
"But why?" he inquired. "You're going to graduate next semester."
"I know. But my family simply can't afford the tuition anymore."
"But you've done so well here . . ."
Abruptly the headmaster told the student, "Sit right there," and reached for the phone. He called a man who was a long-time friend of this private school and a generous donor to its programs. He explained, "I have one of the best students in the senior class sitting here in my office. She's telling me she can't finish the year and graduate because of her family's finances."
The voice on the other end of the phone said, "Send her over."
The headmaster sent the student downtown to see this man at his place of business. He took time out from his responsibilities to meet with her. He inquired about her family's situation and her hopes and dreams for the future. Then he asked, "How much is your tuition going to cost for the rest of the year?" When she told him, he wrote a check for the full amount on the spot.
At first, she could hardly speak. But then she thanked her new benefactor over and over, promising to keep in touch and make him proud. They said their goodbyes and she headed for the door. But he suddenly stopped her. "Wait a minute," he asked. "How did you get here?" "I took the bus," she responded, "Why?" He fished into his pocket and pulled out several coins, enough to pay another bus fare. "This will get you back to school," he said.
When the student told me this story some years later, she said she'd been overwhelmed by the man's generosity in paying her tuition. She admired him for feeling a responsibility to give something back after God had blessed him with financial success. This was real goodness. But she'd also told me she'd been deeply touched by his thoughtfulness. For a company president to be thinking about how a student would get back to high school and to provide for that seemingly insignificant expense personally was evidence of a further quality. This man had a genuine, compassionate interest in people, and he expressed it by being attentive to their smallest practical needs. This was kindness.
These are two of the virtues that Peter urges us to cultivate at the beginning of his second epistle. The word that's often translated "goodness" is arete. It can refer to people who do well in life and have an excellent reputation because their success is considered the result of good character. This term would describe a public philanthropist well. The word "kindness" is philadelphia. It's literally the affection and concern we feel for a brother or sister or another family member. Taking care of a high school student you've just met as if she were your own daughter is an excellent expression of this quality.
Sometimes a person will joke, "I love humanity, it's people I can't stand." But a person who has both of these qualities expresses a love for humanity through goodness and a love for people through kindness. This shows in the way they both give generously to important causes and respond attentively to personal needs.
"If you possess these qualities in increasing measure," Peter writes, "they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:8).
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- Have you ever been the recipient of an unexpected act of kindness and personal attention from an important, busy person?
- As we cultivate the quality of goodness, what disciplines or commitments can we build into our lives to ensure that we regularly and effectively "give something back" as we are blessed with success?
- Have you ever heard or made jokes like, "I could get a lot of work done around here if it weren't for all these customers"? What slogans or mottos could a workplace adopt that would put a high value on giving personal attention to the needs and interests of "customers"?