Each summer, I like to challenge myself. I’ve done a variety of things from fundraisers to triathlons. But this year, I did something different. While it seems like evil is in my face 24/ 7, I am on the hunt to find kindness in complete strangers.
My tool to engage strangers was a simple homemade felt heart and a 1/2 sheet of paper describing the project.
Here is who I encountered:
First Story: It was a beautiful walk around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. I was watching some ducks when this woman came alongside me. She was looking at an otter. What followed was a lovely conversation about ducks and otters. (Think about it. When was the last time you talked about ducks and otters with a stranger?) As we talked, I told her about my #bekindhearted project and gave her a kindness heart. She was happy to receive it, and it spiraled us into deeper conversation. Ends up, she is the nanny for a kid at my church.
Second Story: Last Sunday, it was my turn to visit a local homebound member. Funny thing about nursing homes on a Sunday is that there is not much staff to help you find your way. Luckily, this woman Iva and another lady named Joyce helped me find my homebound friend. But she was sleeping! So I thought I would visit with Iva and Joyce who had made their way to the front door. After a little conversation, I asked, “Where are you going?” Waiting for a Metro Mobility bus, they were going to a battered women’s shelter to play bingo. Joyce, who had a walker herself, said that she wanted to help others who are really hurting. I gave them each a kindness heart to say “thank you” for their willingness to be kind to others. Joyce said she would pass it on to someone at the shelter.
Third Story: Near my house, there is a dog pound. Many people volunteer to walk the dogs when I met this couple. They had fallen in love with this little dog, who had just moved here from Georgia. Ironically, I shared a story with them about my mother, who lives in Atlanta and lost her dog of 18 years last month. They are deep down dog-lovers with an empathetic ear. I asked them “why” did they love dogs so much. Their response was “because dogs are a part of God’s creation!” Undoubtedly, they graciously received a kindness heart and promised to pay it forward.
I shared this experiment in my sermon last week on “Why evil?” My attempt was to preach about what is evil, where it comes from and what we can do about it. What I concluded from my research and experiment is that evil exists but so does God. And God shows up in the kindness of strangers.
As my sermon concluded, I challenged each person to take a heart and to join me in the #bekindhearted project. Even with low attendance on a 4th of July weekend, it was clear to me that God is up to something. Out of the 200 kindness hearts made, only 20 were left. You never know what people might do with a big hairy audacious goal.
In remembrance of Pastor Christopher P. Nelson of Bethlehem Lutheran Church.