In this month centered on love, not only do we have Valentine’s Day but National Random Acts of Kindness Week is just around the corner, too, February 14-20. As followers of St. Francis, we have many examples of random acts of kindness to inspire us to do more works of neighborly love that will transform an ordinary day into one lived in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare. For instance, you may have heard the story of Francis and the leper. Before his conversion, Francis would have turned and run in the opposite direction as the disease was much feared. Lepers were ostracized and "untouchable." Francis wrote in his Testament, “When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them. When I became acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me became the source of spiritual and physical consolation for me.”
God’s love for Francis and, in turn, his love for God transformed him. Francis got off his horse and, in that moment, with God's love pouring into his heart and soul, he kissed the leper in a beautiful act of brotherly love and acceptance and then gave him money. When he got back on his horse to leave, he looked around and saw no one and came to believe it was Jesus whom he had just embraced. It was the beginning of his ministry to a nearby leper colony.
Another time Francis asked those who were able if they would give him their coat. This allowed the donors of the coats to respond in the moment with their own random act of kindness, for we all are called to give of ourselves in various and no less important ways. Francis then gave each coat to the next poor person he met. Francis loved God so much, his kindness overflowed, blessing all he encountered. As Franciscans, doing random acts of kindness should be in our blood streams. Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) Like Francis, we can grow into this kind of love as we more eagerly seek God.
Who in your path is kept on the margins of your community--either ignored, excluded, neglected, scorned, feared, or treated rudely and unjustly? In what ways, big or small can you acknowledge their humanity and their identity as children of God? How might your kindness begin a transformation in them and in you? It does not always take a grand gesture. Eye contact and a smile can be an act of kindness in a world where most people's attention is glued to their cell phone. If these children of God are not in your path, is it time that you take a road less traveled and encounter them there? Is this how you might become Jesus' hands and feet?
Image by Allegany Art
It is time we share our stories and encourage one another! Have you ever done a random act of kindness, received one, or paid it forward? Have you ever listened to someone who needed to talk on a plane or train or sitting in a doctor’s waiting room (when you would rather sleep or listen to a podcast)--and then were surprised it was you who was blessed by the conversation? Share your story of an unusual random act of kindness that you did or were blessed with or witnessed. We may then share your story to bless others with it.