Random Acts of Kindness

Posted on May 5, 2020

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I always thought the phrase “random acts of kindness” was basically invented by telejournalists to lift up the spirits of their listeners accustomed to 24 hours of bad news, 7 days a week, 12 months of the year. How much bad, or fake, or depressing news of the affairs of men (and women of course; don’t want to leave you girls out of the formula) take before turning cynical and feeling lowly, alone and pretty much wondering how the human species could sink so low. You can apply the bad news to just about any category you wish—political, racial, sexual, religious, social, economic, ad infinitum.

Then last week, on a Friday evening, at about 6 p.m. I was going about my business of getting the missus and I a couple of Whataburgers since we had been working in our yard like field hands and were famished. Whataburgers is one of our go to places on the menu of good eating spots in T-town. I’m not endorsing them necessarily over other fast eating spots; they just are closest to our home and make a great burger with all the fixings.

Whataburger has a normal fast food order system. I was in line in my car and there are two stations to give your orders. After you order from the first one, you turn left and enter the line to pay, and then collect your order further down. After you order from the second station, just to the right of the first, you go a little bit forward and enter an outside line to go pay and collect the burger brought to you by an attendant.

Tonight, the second line was closed, so those of us in the second station turned to enter the first line after we ordered, in sequence. One from the first line turned left, one from the second, one from the first, you get the drill.

The car in front of me couldn’t quite turn a sharp enough left to turn into the waiting line to pay. So, I backed a bit to give them room to back up and turn their wheels. I signaled with my hand, “back up a bit” so they would know they had some room and wouldn’t back into me. No big deal. Then they moved forward, and I waited for the car on the left of me to follow them, and I followed him.

When I got to the paying window the nice young lady confirmed my order, smiled and said the “car in front of you paid for your order.”

I’m a little hard of hearing, and thought I heard something along those lines. “You mean the guy in front of me paid for my order?”

“Yes,” she said, smiling back at me.

“The police cruiser in front of me?” I asked again.

“Yes.”

I pulled up to the delivery window and of course the police car was gone with his/her order. I picked up mine and went home.

Now I know policemen (are we at “policepeople” yet?) are not the highest paid working people in town. They don’t usually have a lot of excess or disposable income. What he or she did was an act of kindness and gratitude.

Earlier this week a stranger showed up at my front door. He knew me as one of the “jail ministers” where I, along with a bunch of other Christian men and women, go in once a week to the Tuscaloosa County Jail.

“I just got out from a work release camp in Decatur (or perhaps Huntsville, I forget which town or city) and they dumped me in front of the county courthouse.”

“Do I know you?” I asked kind of gingerly although I was already guessing, yes indeed.

“Yes, you preached when I was in jail here. I don’t have anything Mr. Larry.”

Long story made short. I gave him a few dollars to tide him over, patted him on the shoulder, and sent him on his way to buy a lunch or breakfast, or, could be, a cheap bottle of wine. I didn’t ask.

“God go with you,” I said as he turned down the steps.

“Amen, thank you.”

What’s happening here? Was I simply blessed by the policeman who wanted to let me know that my very small act of politeness merited a very sweet gesture of thanks, even if anonymously? BTW, if you were in a police cruiser around 6 p.m. at Whataburger on Friday April 24, THANKS! The burgers hit the spot and the kindness of your gesture was received with much gratitude. Jesus taught us to think and do good things and He would take care of the thanks, but I also have learned from Scripture how to receive blessings with thanks and gratitude for the folks He has put in our paths.

Perhaps the Corona Virus Pandemic and collapse of the world economic order has led us to rethink what is important in life. I think Scripture teaches us to be cheerful givers, as well as grateful recipients of blessings, large and small. Elbow bump to you all.

Published as “Random acts of kindness” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday May 3, 2020