She stood in line quietly crying, holding onto a metal sign to steady herself.
I’d just arrived at the airport gate, ready to catch my flight back to Billings. As I waited for my zone to be called, I noticed her wiping the tears from her cheeks.
That’s when I noticed that many other people were watching her as well. Although she was not crying loudly, her soft sniffling and flowing tears caught the attention of anyone who glanced in her direction.
I waited a few moments more, hoping that one of the women sitting within a few feet of her would come to her aid. But no one moved. They were all paralyzed by the same hesitancy that was holding me back.
“I don’t even know her.” “What will I say?” “Will she be offended by my intruding?”
I finally overcame my doubts and took a step toward her, but I was too late. Another man who had noticed her grief approached her first. I thank God I was close enough to hear parts of their conversation.
“Are you OK?”
A quick glance to catch his eyes, to read his heart. “No, I just found out my mother died. I was on my way to see her, but now I’m too late. I wanted so much to tell her once more how much I love her.”
He had the courage to touch a stranger; to place a gentle hand on her arm, to show, not just say, “I care. I’m sorry.”
“When did you last talk with her?”
“Did you tell her that you loved her?”
“Yes, of course, but I wanted to do it in person, one more time.”
“If you told her yesterday, then your words were still echoing in her heart. Mothers always hold such words tightly. They are more precious than diamonds.”
The woman’s face brightened. Hope came into her eyes. “Thank you, thank you so very much.”
As the ticket agent called the next zone, the two of them moved toward the gate, still talking.
I regretted that I had hesitated too long to comfort her, but I was glad that God had made another man so other-aware and other-engaging that he would step forward with just the right words. Words that perfectly illustrated an age-old saying,
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
This timeless insight is especially true at Christmas, when people long to be close to family and friends and feel the pain of loneliness and broken relationships more keenly than ever.
You can do something about this.
Open your eyes and your ears to the people around you, and ask God to give you a heightened sensitivity to people who are struggling with some kind of battle, whether relationally, financially or with their health or job.
It could be spouse or a child, a parent or sister, a familiar clerk in the store or bank, or a complete stranger. If God has put that person in front of you, it’s probably because he wants you to be a channel of his grace.
So boldly ask him for the same kindness, courage and simple words that enabled the man in the airport to approach a stranger who was hurting.
Remember this: just as the pain of loneliness and loss is magnified at this time of year, so is the comfort of a few kind words, which God can use not only to console others but also to draw them to the source of all comfort, the Lord Jesus Christ.
– Ken Sande
- How do our acts of kindness identify us with Christ? (Col. 3:12).
- Think of two times when God moved others to show you unexpected kindness. Thank him once more, then call or write those people to tell them again how much their kindness meant to you.
- Think of a time when you hesitated to show kindness to someone. What was it that held you back? Pray that God will change your heart so that the next time you see others in distress, you will move quickly to encourage them.
- If you’d like to improve your capacity to feel and show genuine empathy and compassion toward others, read and discuss Seven Steps to Empathy.
- If you’d like to improve your overall relational skills, and help others to do the same, invited some friends to join you in completing our online course on relational wisdom starting in January.
Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.
© 2017 Ken Sande
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