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Spread the Wow

It seems to me that any kindness that doesn’t depend on duty or being paid back is a really nice surprise. It makes us go ‘wow’. Which is lovely but makes me think we aren’t kind like that often enough.


They bring the mother of three out her back door with her eyes closed. Around her, her family and close friends stand next to the team that have spent the day and their television program’s weekly budget on transforming her backyard into an oasis. When she opens her eyes there is a noticeable moment of silence as she takes in the sight. Then she is visibly overcome and begins saying ‘wow’ every 10 seconds or so.

Last year I spent one hour giving out muffins and church invitations to morning commuters. A number of people began to take out money to pay for the muffins and were quite taken aback when I insisted they were free.

An international student recently told me that Australians were SOOOOOOOO friendly. Which I certainly would like to think is the case. But when I asked about their experiences of that, it was a pretty unimpressive list. Things like smiling, giving directions.

Whenever I do the dishes at home, Cheryl seems rather surprised and grateful. Now I am pleased to be appreciated. But if she is surprised, then I can’t help inferring, that I am not doing the dishes often enough! Surely me helping out with the dishes shouldn’t be that big a surprise – and yet it is.

It seems to me that any kindness that doesn’t depend on duty or being paid back is a really nice surprise. It makes us go ‘wow’. Which is lovely but makes me think we aren’t kind like that often enough.
Why be surprisingly nice?

On one occasion, when Jesus went to eat at the house of a prominent and devout Jew, he said to his host:

When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:12-14 TNIV)

Now why does Jesus say this? Is it some kind of aversion to mutual sharing? On the contrary, it is about being kind regardless of how others treat us. So Jesus also said:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (Matthew 5:44-46 TNIV)

The logic is simple. God keeps loving people regardless of how good, bad or indifferent we are. So we shouldn’t think it’s a big deal for us to be kind and caring as long as we get something in return. Even tax collectors do that! (Insert your choice of proverbial selfish profession eg. Lawyers, Used Car Salesman, etc The point isn’t that all people in the profession are like that. The point is we know what it’s like when people pretend to do the right thing as a cover up for selfishness.) In fact God has sent his only eternal son to love us to the point of dying for us. And this is despite the variety of ways that we ignore God, reject God or serve God as a cover up for selfishness. The death and resurrection of Jesus prove God’s love in a human love. Wow!

So how can I love like that? How can I care for people regardless of anything about them? I’m not even sure where to find the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And if I just bowl up and ask strangers over for dinner, I’ll be worried about it being condescending or even unsafe!

Step 1:

Find something specific that works for you. So here’s my suggestion for building this kind of lifestyle. Start by finding a simple down to earth way to show people you care about them. Find something specific that isn’t too hard. And don’t worry about what works for everyone else. Find something that works for you.
I know someone who sends people those free postcards you can get in Cafes. I know another person who semi-regularly follows up the obligatory “how are you?” – “fine” exchange by asking “and how are you really?” and then actually listens. I know someone who hugs anything that moves. She scares me a bit actually. But at least I know she cares about me! I know someone who regularly gives people fruit and vegetables from their hobby garden. And for some, it might feel perfectly natural to invite relative strangers over for a meal.

Step 2:

Start with people who are close I suggest starting with people who are close to you and building up to people you know less well and finally people who you deliberately meet just to be nice. Once you develop a routine of doing your nice thing for people you know you will get a feel for how to show people you care in unexpected ways without being too weird. You might even eventually develop a broader repertoire of nice things to do for people.

So decide what you are going to do, when you are going to do it, and when you are going to review your progress! The only limit is our imaginations and of course social convention. But I don’t want social convention to stop me from ever doing anything that is surprisingly nice, considerate, or caring. Let’s spread the wow.

 Photo Credit: “Soapsuds”, © 2012 oatsy40, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

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