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I’m thinking about starting a non-profit organization for all the people who perform acts of kindness and don’t want to be thanked for doing them.
Maybe I’ll name it, “Grace-Givers Anonymous.” I could set up a website where people like you could donate. Billboards promoting deliberate acts of kindness could be set up. Together we could run TV commercials for the cause.
Communities would be encouraged to start a Grace-Giver Anonymous program in their area. And every year, we could have an annual convention where the grace-givers could meet one another and those they’ve helped could meet and thank their grace-giver.
We could even establish an annual Grace-Giver Anonymous of the Year Award. OK, maybe it is a crazy idea. But what is incredibly sane is what these people -- call them grace-givers, kindness-distributors, gratitude-sharers -- do by helping others.
What motivates them to do it? As far as I can tell, nothing more than the decision to be kind and compassionate.
Recipients of their kindness usually feel a bit humbled by their generosity. Just ask my dad. I called him the other morning, as I do most every morning, to find out how he’s doing.
“Great,” he said with excitement in his voice. “You won’t believe what happened yesterday.”
I sensed a story coming on.
“Your mom and I went with Mark and Joy (my brother and sister-in-law) to eat at the Olive Garden. When we asked for the bill, the waiter told us someone had already paid for all four of us. The waiter gave me a card that said, ‘Thanks for serving. God bless you.’ When I asked where the people were who paid for our meal, the waiter said they’d already left.”
Dad went on to explain that he had been wearing his “WWII Korea Veteran” cap. “They saw that I was a veteran and wanted to thank me,” Dad said with a tone of humility.
Much more important than receiving the free meal was the act of being thanked for serving. Whoever paid for the meal had a plan. They had cards printed that expressed their gratitude. Then they looked for veterans and followed through with specific acts of kindness. They didn’t hang around to be thanked, either.
It reminded me of something I received in the mail the other day. It was a small package with no return address. I curiously opened it and found -- lo and behold, my long-lost Day-Timer. Inside was a note, “Found in U-Haul at Centerville, Ala.”
Back in August we had moved our son, Dave, to Starkville, Miss., where he is in graduate school at Mississippi State University. I got everything out of the U-Haul except my Day-Timer. Not only did I have important future events noted in it, but I had my laminated Thomas Merton prayer in there, as well as a few Scriptures.
I missed my Day-Timer, and had long ago given up on ever seeing it again. Who would care, even though I had written my return address inside it? Whoever mailed it to me had to buy the mailing package, address it, pay postage and mail it. That didn’t take a lot of time, but it would have been much easier to have left it in the U-Haul, as others had apparently done.
So again, what motivates this unique breed of people, these grace-givers, to do what they do? Did that person read the Scriptures in my Day-Timer and think that whoever owns it must be some kind of spiritual person and for that reason returned it? Did the person who bought Dad’s meal have a son or daughter, brother, sister or parent who died in the military and for that reason felt compelled to buy a meal for a veteran?
Who can know? And really, does it matter?
These kind souls are just that: people who express their feelings of compassion with specific actions. Not wanting to be recognized, they anonymously spread kindness through our world, which makes their exploits all the more admirable.
Whatever their exact motivation, they inspire others to do the same, to perform the little deeds during the day that go unnoticed by most everyone but the recipients of those who receive them. And they make the world a better place. But that really scuttles my plan for a non-profit. No, a non-profit for these folks is exactly what they wouldn’t want.
Even if I received the funding for the project, put up the billboards, ran the commercials, and rented a convention hall -- who would come? The anonymous grace-givers would be smiling outside, in the streets somewhere, moving incognito among the crowds, spreading acts of kindness to those who need them.
Dr. David B. Whitlock, minister of Lebanon Baptist Church, also is an adjunct instructor at Campbellsville University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.