by Eugene Higgins
The Enduring Character of Kindness
Few of us imagined, in the middle of March, that it would be more than two months before we saw the light of day from our bunkers here along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. We have learned a lot about human nature in that time. We have seen that:
- Some people are Haman-like in their love of power. Ignoring basic human – and constitutionally assured – rights, some have demanded their words be treated as law, even though no legislative body passed those laws. Their edicts seemed to come right out of the palace in Shushan and carry the threat: “Bow the knee or we stretch the neck – you choose!”
- Some people are Balaam-like and try to take advantage of others, unscrupulously, in order to make money however they can. That their “products” might involve the needless death of others means little to them if it increases their net worth.
- Some people are Job-like and, with God-given grace, humbly submit to even the most difficult of circumstances. Their reverent attitude is, “What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”
- Some people are Moses-like, realizing their inadequacy for new tasks suddenly thrust on them but looking to the Lord to help them do what must be done to reach souls with the Gospel and provide spiritual food for believers.
- Some people are Daniel-like and just continue to do what is right, windows open and eyes Heavenward, irrespective of how many harmful laws are enacted or how many hungry lions are waiting.
- Some people are John-like and, in the midst of isolation on their own private Patmos, have learned more about the Lord and His ways, enabling them to better minister to our hearts.
- Some people are Esther-like and, (similar to Epaphroditus), sacrifice themselves to serve a great need. Often referred to as being on the “front lines,” these medical professionals devotedly care for others in a way that recalls Esther’s selfless words, “If I perish, I perish.”
Wanting this email to be more encouraging than enervating, I’ll just mention some wonderful examples of unselfishness and kindness that took place during these stressful days.
Potatoes and Euros
The Irish Return an Old Favor: More than 170 years ago, the Native-American Choctaws sent $170 to Ireland to help during the Irish potato famine. The Choctaws were the first tribe to be relocated during the Trail of Tears, which started in 1831. Thousands starved and died along that “trail.” When, 16 years later, the Choctaws learned of the Irish potato famine, “a great empathy was felt when they heard such a similar tale coming from across the ocean.” So in 1847, the Choctaw people gathered together $170, (the equivalent of more than $5,000 today), to send to the Irish. Now, in the year 2020, hundreds of Irish people are repaying that old kindness, giving to a charity drive for two Native American tribes suffering in the Covid-19 pandemic. The fund-raiser has raised more than $1.8 million to help supply clean water, food, and health supplies to people in the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation. (This liberality seems typical of the generous and large-hearted Irish people.)
In Belgium, the Brussels public bus company asked people to send in voice messages and a street address to which the message should be delivered. It then sets out on a journey every evening to deliver them “in person” via loudspeaker. The bright red “Voices of Brussels” bus booms out personalized messages like “We miss you a lot,” to aged grandparents from their grandchildren. Traveling in a big loop each evening, it delivers the recorded messages – in the voice of the messengers themselves – gladdening the hearts of many lonely people.
OK, but are there chocolate mints on the pillows?
Last month, Trade association U.K. Hospitality said 200 hotels answered its call for support and made over 20,000 beds available across the country for NHS staff and other vital workers. This is on top of thousands already offered up by individual companies. Mayfair luxury hotel Claridge’s was hosting as many as 40 NHS workers, and offering daily packed meals for over 500, including community support teams across London. Claridge’s said it plans to put the guests in rooms that usually start from £650 a night. In the US, more than 15,000 hotels — representing 2.3 million rooms — signed on to a “Hospitality for Hope” initiative launched by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA). In April, Marriott Bonvoy launched “Rooms for Responders” together with American Express and JPMorgan Chase to provide up to $10 million worth of hotel stays—or approximately 100,000 room-nights—at no cost to frontline health-care workers
Craning to see
Belgian Man Uses Cranes to Reunite Families During Quarantine: The AP reports that instead of letting his company’s equipment stand idle during coronavirus lockdowns, Tristan Van den Bosch has been using the mobile platforms to connect seniors in care homes with their loved ones. “I saw a man shouting at his mother,” said Van den Bosch; not unusual — except that the man was on the ground and his mother was three stories up. She was, like many seniors, locked down in a care home to avoid the virus. But as days have turned to weeks and months, families like this one have struggled. “We can help this man!” Van den Bosch thought. Many of his cranes were standing idle in the depot. Why not use those cranes to lift people, so they can see relatives on the upper floors of homes for the aged? Since then, Van den Bosch has been driving his cranes to homes in several towns across Belgium. A platform carries families to their relatives’ windows. A daughter or grandson waves, and worries vanish from faces creased by age. No internet connection or Zoom session can match this!
While much of the above actions, efforts, and sacrifices would be beyond our means, here is what is not:
You don’t need a bus and a loudspeaker to send a message of cheer to a discouraged saint. Communication has never been easier than it is in the 21st century. Do you know believers who are not well? A cheery card or email would likely brighten their day. Think of older believers, perhaps lonelier now than ever. A call from you might be the highlight of their day. There is so much to admire about the large-hearted and loyal Barzillai the Gileadite. You’ll recall that he was a “very aged man, even fourscore years old.” Yet he gave great encouragement to a younger man in a time of trouble, bringing, along with others, supplies to David and his men when they fled from Absalom. He did so because, as he said, “The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness.” Years later, when David was dying, he gave what seems to be death-bed instructions to his son Solomon, saying, “But shew kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be of those that eat at thy table: for so they came to me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother” (1 Kings 2:7). Just three verses later we read, “So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David” (1 Kings 2:10). He never forgot the kindness shown to him by a faithful friend.
You don’t need a crane to lift someone up. The lifting up of your hands in prayer and intercession for a struggling believer can make a huge difference in his or her experience. While our minds would go, perhaps instinctively, to the picture of Moses on the mount, with Aaron and Hur on either side, holding his hands up, there is another scene that is extremely eloquent – all the more so for its brevity. As far as I know, it is only recorded once in scripture and is easily overlooked because it is not mentioned at the time that it happened. Years after the events of Exodus 32, Moses described his return to Sinai to intercede for the people after the golden calf incident. Here are his words as he reminded the people of what happened: “And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger … And the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron also the same time” (Deuteronomy 9:18, 20). Aaron’s life, Aaron’s ministry, Aaron’s position as the High Priest, the usefulness of Aaron’s entire life – all of that was preserved by the action revealed in these 5 words: “I prayed for Aaron also.” Perhaps Aaron never knew how much he owed to his brother’s intercession. Moses’ attitude is so like that of the Lord Jesus, Who said to Peter, “I have prayed for thee.” Who knows what impact your prayers will have on some life or some labor being done for God!
You don’t need resources of $1.8 million or rooms costing £650 per night to repay your debt – you just need to give the message of life and hope to sinners. Paul not only said, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise,” but he added, “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel … (Romans 1:14, 15).
Generosity, thoughtfulness, kindness, unselfish interest in others – these are Christian qualities, Christ-like qualities, that we all should wish to emulate. May God help each of us to “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things” (Titus 2:10).
“Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it”
With our love,
Gene and Nancy Higgins