A Life of Its Own

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions.

Frederick William Faber

My wife Terry recently spent a week at a conference and retreat center near Baltimore, Maryland.  She gathered with colleagues who also serve presbyteries throughout the country.  Honestly, I really hoped she bring home a fresh Maryland crab cake but, equally honestly, I knew that was not too realistic.  What she did bring me was a decorative magnet that included the quotation, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions.”  I surely would have enjoyed a crab cake—I cannot deny that!  But this quote really struck me and will definitely stick with me longer than even the best crab cake!

A single act. That is all. Sometimes we succumb to the notion that we must do a lot or do something big and bold or do something everyone will consider the best.  But when it comes to kindness a simple act is not only enough but can impact others exponentially.

A single act can be easy and then again it can be hard.  Sometimes it is easy when it comes naturally for us or it is directed to someone we love.  Sometimes it is hard when it requires more from us—more time, more energy, more sacrifice.  Regardless, the impact of kindness can be so profound.  Sometimes even though it is easy for us it comes to someone at just the right moment—when they feel overlooked or overwhelmed.  Our single, easy act of kindness really makes a noticeable difference in their lives.  Another time, when it is hard for us, it can equally change someone else’s life for the better possibly in a way we never know.

Throws out roots in all direction.  I like the idea of kindness taking root in a person’s life or in a family or a community or a congregation.  Acts of kindness are not fleeting.  They last—likely beyond what we witness initially.  The compassion experienced in kindness becomes rooted in the recipient’s life and becomes an ongoing source of strength.  It also then fuels their ability to act in kindness toward others.  Acts of kindness multiply themselves touching and transforming more and more lives.  That is how kindness spreads in all directions.  We act in kindness a single time but the kindness moves well beyond that person, that place, that point in time.  It keeps going and going and going—to people and places we can never know.  Kindness takes on a life of its own.

If you ever garden near a tree you learn quickly how expansive its root system is.  Countless times when attempting to plant a new perennial flower in our yard I have ended up working around tree roots unexpectedly.  I cannot really fathom the expansiveness of a root system of a single tree.  The same is true of kindness—it may appear singular on the surface but much more is happening than I can perceive.

I invite you this week to recall an act of kindness directed to you.  How did you feel?  How did it impact you?  How did it affect others in your life?  And too, consider how you can act in kindness toward someone else and be mindful of the impact of your kindness beyond that one singular act.

We are all recipients of the good, compassionate kindness of God.  May that be the source of our acts of kindness that take root in the lives of others.

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