A Spirit of Kindness
by Eric Kreye
On a stormy night many years ago, an elderly gentleman and his wife entered the lobby of a small hotel in Philadelphia. "All the big hotels are filled up," he said to the hotel clerk. "Could you possibly give us a room here?"
"All our rooms are filled too," the clerk replied. "Still, I can't send a nice couple like you out in the rain at one o'clock in the morning. Would you be willing to sleep in my room?"
At the clerk's insistence, the couple consented.
"Don't worry about me, I'll do just fine," the clerk assured them.
Next morning, as the appreciative man paid his bill, he remarked to the clerk, "You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Who knows, someday I may build one for you!"
They all had a good laugh as the clerk helped them to the cab with their bags.
Two years later when the clerk had all but forgotten the incident, he received a letter from the elderly gentleman. In it he mentioned the memorable night and enclosed a round-trip ticket to New York City, asking the young man to pay them a visit.
In New York, after renewing their acquaintance, the man led his guest to the corner of Fifth Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street and pointed to a new building. To the hotel clerk it looked like a castle from fairyland.
"That," said his friend, "is the hotel I've built for you to manage."
"You must be joking," the young man said modestly.
"I most assuredly am not," was the response from the New York gentleman, with a smile playing around his mouth.
The gentleman was William Waldorf Aster, and the hotel was the original Waldorf Astoria. The young clerk, who became its first manager--because of a kind deed--was George C. Boldt.
Not all kind deeds are repaid with such generosity, but kindness is still worth it!
Is it possible to generate such positive virtues on our own? According to Galatians 5, goodness of any kind is not something we do naturally, but the opposite is true. Only God can place within the heart of man a spirit of kindness.
The apostle Paul encourages the Christian to bear the fruit of the Spirit. They are "...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22, 23, emphasis supplied).
As in the past, and often so true today, the lives of people can so easily be broken or bruised because of a spirit of unkindness, sometimes expressed in harsh words. Solomon cautioned, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue,..." (Proverbs 18:21).
These words were written some years ago:
A careless word may kindle strife;
A cruel word may wreck a life;
A bitter word may hate instill;
A brutal word may smite and kill.
One evening a young settler arrived home very exhausted. He noticed that the cows had broken out. He said harshly to his wife, "You could have watched the cows, you had nothing else to do!"
He regretted his bitter words but was too proud to ask forgiveness.
The next morning he left without saying a word to his wife.
Later that day a storm came up suddenly, which he knew would frighten his wife. So he headed home as quickly as he could.
But the cabin was empty. He hastily read a note his wife had left on the kitchen table, "I'm sorry, dear, the cows broke out again. I have gone to find them. Please have kind words."
The husband searched for his wife throughout the night. All around him lightning flashed, and there was loud thunder and a noisy downpour of hail-stones.
It was morning when he found her cold body not far from the cabin. He knew his sharp tongue had driven her into the stormy night. He recognized that it was too late for kind words.
What a different and beautiful place this world could be if everyone practiced kindness.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said something that is difficult for us to grasp:
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you, and pray for them
that despitefully use you, and persecute you."
Love my enemies? That's impossible--except by the grace of God! It is not natural for us to be kind to those who hate us! It certainly is not something we can do ourselves, but only by the Spirit of the Lord working in us that makes it possible.
In 2 Samuel, chapter 9, we find an unusual story of kindness. King Saul had been hunting David with just one purpose in mind, he wanted to kill him. But then King Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in battle.
And David was the new king of Israel.
One day he asked his advisors, "Do we have anyone of the household of Saul still living?"
Yes, Jonathan's lame son, Mephibosheth, was still alive. But he carried deep resentment toward King David, blaming him for the death of his father and his grandfather. So when David called for him, Mephibosheth was fearful.
Imagine his surprise, when he arrived at King David's palace, to be treated with courtesy and kindness. David promised that all of his father's land and any other possessions would be returned to Mephibosheth. Also, his father's servants were to cultivate the fields for him.
And the greatest surprise, Jonathan's son was to be a daily guest at King David's table, just as though he were his own son!
David's kindness won the heart of the young man, and nothing could ever shake his loyalty to the new king.
David could have done differently--he could have avenged himself for all the terrible things Saul did to him. But he chose instead to extend a spirit of kindness.
The book of Proverbs instructs us how to show kindness to those who mistreat us:
"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
for you will heap coals of fire on his head,
and the Lord will reward you."
--Proverbs 25:21, 22
Jim Williams and his wife were forced to sell the family farm in Pennsylvania because of urban development.
As they were driving west in search of another farm, Jim expressed his feelings best when he said, "I want to live where I can breathe and see the handiwork of God."
They liked Wisconsin. They noticed the fertile fields and fruitful orchards, the rolling hills and beautiful valleys. It reminded them of the home they had left.
At the hotel that first night in the new area the clerk suggested that they look at a certain nearby farm first thing the next morning.
The real-estate agent smiled at the thought of another commission. The farm had changed ownership several times in recent years.
Jim looked the place over carefully. He said, "With a little fixing up here and there we can make this a productive farm." However, he couldn't understand why the price was so cheap. He told the agent, "Let me think about it. It looks like a good buy, but Cora and I never make a major decision without praying about it first."
Jim checked with a farmer in the area to discover why that particular farm had been sold so often.
The man was very frank. He blamed Mr. Grimes, the farmer living next door. "Nobody can stand to live near that old codger," he said. "He plays every dirty trick in the book and folk get fed up and sell dirt cheap! As far as I'm concerned, Grimes acts like the devil himself."
Cora was surprised when she heard her husband say, "I'll buy that farm, and if old man Grimes tries to pull any of his shenanigans on me, I'll kill that old devil."
The farm was purchased. Soon Jim and Cora were busy moving their household goods and farm equipment to the new place.
Cora had the time of her life redecorating the house and fixing it up nicely.
Soon the farm was in full operation, and they were thrilled with their accomplishments. Everything had been done in such a short time.
Then one morning the cows were missing. To Jim's surprise the fence had been cut. After much searching he found the cows and drove them back home. Then he set two heavy posts for a gate right where the fence had been cut. Next he attached a convenient latch, just in case old man Grimes wanted to let the cows out again.
Another day there was no water in the house or in the barn. It didn't take long for Jim to discover that a section of pipe had been dug up. He said, "That old boy had to go to a lot of work to dig up the pipe and then haul it away."
Soon the pipe was fixed. Jim didn't bother to fill in the dirt. If Grimes wanted to disconnect the pipe again, he wouldn't have all the work of digging it up.
Once when Grimes had gone to town, Cora took over a basket of fresh fruit and left it on his porch.
Well, what do you think happened next? Cora's clothesline was cut and the clean laundry was down in the dirt--she was furious! Jim patted her on the back and said, "I'll fix it, but in the meantime you can be thankful for your new washer."
They couldn't figure out why Grimes would play such a dirty trick in return for all they had done for him.
That evening Jim picked up the Bible and read:
"Love is patient and kind;
love is not jealous or boastful;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends;..."
--1 Corinthians 13:4-8
And he read something else that reinforced his thinking in regard to his obstinate neighbor:
"...live in harmony with one another;
be sympathetic, love as brothers,
be compassionate and humble.
Do not repay evil with evil
or insult with insult,..."
--1 Peter 3:8, 9
He closed the Bible with this observation: "Old man Grimes is a challenge, but with God's help we won't fight back. We'll pray that the Lord will give us patience and kindness. I am sure Grimes has experienced something bad in his life and he's taking it out on society. I believe kindness will overcome his bitterness. It won't be easy, but let's keep trying."
That night Jim left a fresh loaf of bread on the neighbor's porch.
Throughout the long winter months some more strange things did take place. But toward spring things seemed to slacken off.
Jim and Cora had decided long ago that for every bad thing done, they would repay the evil act with some deed of kindness.
One day while Grimes was heading for town, his truck got stuck in a soft spot in his driveway. The deeper he sank in, the madder he got!
Then out of nowhere Jim appeared with a team of horses. After several tries the truck was pulled out of the mud. Without saying a word Jim unhitched his horses and started toward the barn.
Old Grimes jumped from his truck and yelled, "Stop, you're killing me! Every time I do something mean to you, you do something nice--I just can't stand it any longer!"
Jim smiled. "Welcome home, neighbor. It's been a long battle, but it has been worth every effort. Love has finally conquered! Come, let's go to the house and tell my wife, Cora. She'll be happy."
As the men came through the kitchen door, Jim said, "Guess what, honey, the war is over. Our neighbor, Mr. Grimes, is now our friend."
"Thank God! I knew He would answer in His own good time." Tears of joy flowed down her face.
Now Mr. Grimes, with tears in his eyes, said, "Do you think God still cares for somebody like me? I have never known much about God, but my Cathleen did, before that awful accident that took her and the baby. A drunk driver killed them both. Right there I cursed God and everyone else who seemed happy.
"I never got over it until you folk came along and showed me that there is still some good in this old world. Please forgive me for all the terrible things I did to you."
Finally old devil Grimes was dead, killed by kindness!
My friend, does kindness pay? A thousand times YES! Because it is the Spirit of Jesus. He is our Example. We are to show and demonstrate love just as He did--yes, especially show love to those who are mean to us.
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