Golden Chain of Kindness
Writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, "Kindness
is the golden chain by which society is bound together."
But I was not thinking about the golden chain of kindness
one day when a dilapidated automobile, possibly held together
with glue and wire, parked in front of my house. During those
years, we lived in a small town just across the street from
the church I served, and travelers in need constantly found
their way to our home.
I was growing
weary of helping the numerous people who stopped by almost
daily. I was frequently awakened in the middle of an otherwise
good night's sleep, to get out in the cold and help someone
passing through. Once our property was vandalized; once I
drove through a blizzard in order to get two people to safety;
many times I felt taken for granted by penniless motorists
or hitchhikers who did not thank me for help they received
and complained that I didn't do more. I hadn't felt a part
of a "golden chain of kindness" for awhile and,
though I still offered assistance where I could, sometimes
I inwardly wished they would just go away.
But on this day,
a young man with a week-old beard climbed from the broken-down
automobile. He had no money and no food. He asked if I could
give him some work and I offered him gasoline and a meal.
I told him that if he wanted to work, we'd be pleased if he'd
cut the grass, but work wasn't necessary.
and hungry, he worked hard. Because of the afternoon heat,
I expected him to give up before the job was completed. But
he persisted and, after a long while, he sat wearily down
in the shade. I thanked him for his work and gave him the
money he needed. Then I offered him a little extra money for
a task particularly well done, but he refused. "No sank
you," he said in heavily accented speech. I insisted
that he take the money but he stood up and once again said,
"No sank you. I want to work. Joo keep the money."
I tried again and for a third time he protested, shaking his
head as he walked away.
I never saw him
again. I'm sure I never will. And interestingly, he probably
thinks I helped him out that day. But that is not the way
it was. I didn't help him he helped me. He helped me to believe
in people again. He helped me to once again WANT to do something
for those who are in need. I wish I could thank him for restoring
some of my faith in the basic goodness of others and for giving
me back a little of the optimism I had lost somewhere along
the way. Because of him I once again felt part of a golden
chain of kindness that binds us to one another.
I may have fed
his body that day. But he fed my soul.