“The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.” (NIV)
I show kindness to strangers and those in need.
I spent a little bit of time researching the context of this verse to better understand it. In this chapter, Paul arrives on the island of Malta. And is treated with kindness by the island’s inhabitants. He then goes to meet the chief, who is sick. But Paul heals him and a few others too. Paul appears quite surprised by the treatment he is shown. He speaks of their initial kindness and welcoming as “unusual”.
In ancient times, the empires saw anyone who didn’t look like the Romans or speak like the Romans as barbarians and savages. Because they were different, they were simply not to be trusted. But instead of being brutal and violent, slaughtering Paul and eating the flesh off his bones (as the crew probably thought the islanders would do), they showed kindness to the travelers. The islanders understood how Paul might’ve felt in his situation and were compassionate and sympathetic towards him, keeping him warm and dry. And not skinning him alive.
If foreigners can show this kind of understanding and kindness to a stranger (someone who didn’t look like them or speak like them or even behave like them), what should we be doing for the people we actually know and love?
Helping people is part of showing kindness. If you’re not quite where the islanders were and showing kindness to complete strangers is a little too daunting for you, start small. Start where you are. Look at the people in your immediate environment. That elderly lady down the street who always walks to the grocery store. Or the single mom next door who looks exhausted and struggles to find a babysitter. How can you show them kindness by helping or offering a kind word?
This past week, did someone reach out to you for help? How did you treat them? Did a friend call you up, just to have a chat, but you cut them off because you were rushing from one appointment to the next and were too busy for them? Did a colleague at work struggle with a dilemma or deadline, but instead of helping you popped in your earphones so you wouldn’t be disturbed with your own deadlines?
I have to confess, in the past there have been times where I’ve pretended not to notice someone needing help. I didn’t want to stop what I was doing. I didn’t want to be inconvenienced, so I pretended not to see them struggling. Just so I could continue with what I had planned to do for that day.
But maybe God put that person or situation in your path so that you could stop and help. So you could be kind. Maybe God had a different and better plan for your day. If only you would’ve stopped and shown kindness.
I for one know that when someone is kind to me, I want to pay it forward. It makes me feel good and want to be kind to someone else in return. Imagine what the world would be like if we all took the time to perform one random act of kindness every day.
Your kindness doesn’t have to be unusual. You can simply build a fire to keep someone warm and welcome them into your heart.