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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Little Acts of Random Kindness (Structured)

Location. Location. Location.

Usually I can be tightfisted when it comes to giving money to those who approach me for it on the street. Typically, I avoid eye contact and deny that I have any money to give away. Today when someone asked for money I relented and got on board with his request almost immediately.

I was headed to a job assignment and decided to stop in Walgreen's to pick up a can or two of Arizona tea. My favorite is Sweet Southern tea, which I drink if I must drive on long trips. But today I visualized the colorful can of diet peach tea—by drinking it I would avoid the sugar.

When I parked and started in a man approached and said something about Arizona tea and wanting a quarter. I thought for a moment he had said “I know you are going to get some Arizona tea and I would like a quarter to get some.” I was taken aback and asked him to repeat what he had said. This time it was clear that he had said nothing about what I intended, but only that he would like some Arizona tea for himself and a friend sitting nearby. I told him what I initially thought he had said (he laughed at the idea of him being a psychic), that I was just that minute headed in to get some tea, and that I would be glad to get him some too if he would go in with me to get it. When at the drink cooler I got two diet peach teas. He reached in and got a Sweet Southern tea can and inquired if he could get two. I said “sure” completely on board with helping the man and his friend in this small way.

I am, of course, discussing very small change here, but I think it is worthwhile studying the occasion since it elicited very unusual behavior from me. In the first place, the man appeared neat and clean. He did not look or smell like someone just out to get money for alcoholic beverages and was willing to say anything—no matter how disingenuous— to get it. He approached in a forthright manner. Second of all, he mentioned a can of Arizona tea—raising a clearly defined image in my mind of something directly motivating my behavior at that very instant. Next, his request was modest. I did not have to decide whether to buy a case of tea, merely a can or two. Thus, the decision did not require any “weighing of the matter” in terms of what I could afford. Too, he was graciously willing to go along with my terms in realizing his wishes—to go in with me to fetch can(s) of Arizona tea. Finally, and this may have had some subtle influence—I intended to pay by credit card, not needing to fork over immediate cash or rummage around for it. I came away feeling content with what transpired and did not feel in any way put-upon or exploited. I had made momentary contact (identified) with a stranger experiencing a shared need and common objective and took practical steps to meet them thereby increasing my own sense of self-worth. In in some ways I think this ARK points to the underlying structure of many of them.

So much of God's purpose for us is revealed through Location. Location. Location. The other day I mentioned to my son that sometimes I'm not sure of God's will for me. He looked down and pointed to my shoes. After a moment I looked up to him puzzled. He said if you want to know what God's purpose for you is, look where you're planted. 

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