Maybe days like these days make it necessary — for us all to be little kinder than necessary?
Maybe there are times when private independent acts become more important every day — because there are public actions that are breaking all of us every day.
That’s exactly what Jamie-Lynne Knighten found out when she stood at the checkout aisle of Trader Joe’s with a baby slung on her hip and couldn’t find even a dime in her purse.
She needed an even $200 for the bill and her cart of groceries.
Her debit card was at home. Her credit card was declined. Her phone was somewhere at the bottom of her purse. She had to call the bank. And the baby had to be howling in her ear like some distraught coyote caught in some relentless trap.
Matthew Jackson stepped out of the growing, waiting line and into the baby’s howl and Jamie-Lynn’s frantic search for her phone.
“Let me cover it.”
Let me cover it, was all the guy said. You know — let the shortcomings be covered with long kindnesses, let the messiness of things be covered with amazing grace, let the multitude of problems be covered with an avalanche of love.
Matthews insisted. “Please — let me cover it.”
Who doesn’t want to be covered? Who doesn’t need people to make themselves into a roof for our storms? When we cover each other with caring — we destroy the crisis.
Jamie-Lynn would say she looked up and she’d say could see it in Matthew Jackson’s eyes. He meant it. The kid meant it.
“Look, you don’t have to pay me back.” Matthew Jackson pulled out his wallet. “Just give it forward.”
Maybe our most convincing, persuasive argument for how we envision the cultural landscape of tomorrow — is mostly our profound kindness today.
Sometimes when it gets mighty hard to find solutions to the headlines… turns out that lines of hope and change are found in hearts.
Sometimes —- there are times, in the face of no easy solutions, we get to restore each other to the strength of unlikely revolutions.
Yes, Jamie-Lynn said, yes, she said — she would give it forward —- and she scribbled down Matthew Jackson’s name and where he worked — so she could thank him again. Somehow.
A week later, Jamie-Lynn picked up the phone and rung up Matthew’s boss because she had to tell him what the kid had done.
Could she stop by to somehow thank Matthew — some kind of gift of thanks?
This time it was the cry of Matthew’s boss that broke and shattered at Jamie-Lynn’s ear.
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Less than 24 hours after Matthew had stood in that same Trader Joe’s and paid Jamie-Lynn’s bill, his car wrapped around a tree and his heart slammed to a deafening stop.
But Matthew Jackson didn’t die when he struck that tree because this is how the universe works:
Each act of kindness is a revolutionary act that turns time and distance on its head. Because kindness multiplies each time it’s shared, grows until it becomes a blazing act of heroic courage, much later and far away.
“I still cannot believe it.” Jamie-Lynne would stammer afterward. “I thought for sure I would get the chance to see him again, give him a hug and thank him at least once more in person. Now I won’t get that chance…. And that breaks my heart.”
But nothing could stop her from keeping her promise to him to give his grace forward.
People! All the beautiful, glorious people, from one small town, and from one back road, and from one side of this spinning world to the other, giving it forward!
Driving cancer patients to the hospital and donating blood and reading to kids down at the library and having a coffee ready for the mailman and handing out flowers at the gas station and buying the milk for the lady in checkout line. All the people giving forward, the act of kindness that Matthew Jackson began.
And the thing is? Small things can change everything. Doing the smallest thing, even when we feel like we have nothing to give, can begin to change everything. Every one of us can start changing headlines when we start reaching out our hands.
“In Scotland, in Wisconsin, in Australia. Overwhelming. It was overwhelming,” Jamie-Lynn awed.
Extending himself into community, into a kind of communion, is exactly the kind of person Matthew Jackson’s had always been.
When Matt was a kid? They’d stopped once under a sweltering hot Phoenix sun to get a dripping cold bottle of water. But only one stoplight later? Matthew had flung himself out of the car, straight toward a panholder, thrusting his still-sealed water bottle into the stunned stranger’s hand.
“I knew my boy was like this,” Matthew Jackson’s mother would say. “He would be happy to know that other people are taking up his example.”
I had sat with that. Who’s example are we taking up?Be so intimate with Christ, your life could be imitated.
I had sat with this:
Down some endlessly stretching highway, her and her husband and their 4 kids, Matthew’s people, stumbled into a restaurant for something to take the edge off the hunger, the edge off the grief.
When Matthew’s sister grabbed her purse, got up to the till like Jamie-Lynn had less than a week earlier, Matthew’s heartbroken sister didn’t even get a chance to reach in her purse to grab her card and pay her bill. Because her bill?
Paid in full.
Some stranger, taking the broken and given way, chose to be a GIFTer, to Give It Forward Today. Don’t doubt that there are angels. Don’t doubt He could make you like one.
Love only grows in the world when we all share our love. Love only grows by giving, by being broken and given like bread. We all only get more of the lives we want by giving away bits of the lives and love we have.
The world may get divisive — but what changes the world is when we divide and share and give away amazing grace.
The world may get divisive and our hands may feel empty to do anything — but our hearts can always be full of love and this is what begins to change everything.
The world may get divisive — but this is the moment when we could divide and share all the love in our heart — the grace of holding open a door, of nodding a kind smile, a willing patience that let’s someone go ahead, of giving it forward today in the smallest ways —- even when, especially when, you feel like you have nothing to give.
Giving isn’t about what you have in your hands — it’s what you have in your heart.
And never doubt it:
An act of kindness, giving it forward, can be more powerful than a sword in starting needed revolutions.
True, people may be angry,
Give them love anyway.
People may not like your way,
Give them kindness anyway.
People may be divisive,
Give them dignity anyway.
People may be indifferent,
Give them genuine attention anyway.
People may build fences,
Give them a gate anyway.
People may disagree with you,
Give them space at the table anyway.
People may climb over each other to get ahead
Give them a bit of your heart anyway.
It could happen —-
That the love gifts you send out into the world change the very atmosphere of the world, your acts of giving it forward, of choosing to #beTheGift, reorganizing the atoms of the universe into a love story that runs on without end, changing times and history and how many stories.
When Matthew’s people got back into that car and turned back out on to the road rolling west — the Way ahead of them blazed like the landscape of everything could fill with a kind of glorious light.
In an arguing, debating hurting & brokenhearted world:
Dare with us? To start a bit of a kindness revolution, a giving, generous, caring, broken and given and transforming revolution?
A 365 day GIFT list, a list of Giving It Forward Today… Could there be a more beautiful way to live a life? A daring path to the abundant life!
Our story of taking the dare to the abundant life, of being broken and given: This one’s for the brave and the busted and the real and dreamers and the sufferers and the believers.