I check mail at the post office about twice a week, and I don’t think too much about opening the door and waiting for someone to come through, but it is something I do very often; sometimes unconsciously. I notice people begin to hurry up when I have the door open for a while as if they didn’t expect this act of kindness. Each time I have the door open for someone, I get all kinds of complements from people. They will say things like, “you are such a gentleman” or just a simple “thank you”. I don’t expect people to show their appreciation, but it is always nice to hear people appreciate a simple gesture such as opening a door for a stranger.
I have also had moments when someone I opened the door for came zooming in without saying a word of thanks. Some even have had an attitude of “you better open that door for me because I am better than you”. When that happens, it makes me want to stop opening doors for people. And then these thoughts go through my mind: Maybe I should have let go of the door right in their face instead. Who do they think they are? Why should I be the servant of all? Maybe I should not be nice to people anymore since everyone else seems to be so self-centered and unappreciative. A single incident like this could possibly ruin the evening and affect not only me but my action towards others.
I am sure all of us have felt like we are the only ones who are making an effort to be nice or help others. We sometimes go out of our way to do an act of kindness to strangers only to be disappointed by the response we get back. We have heard many stories of good Samaritans getting hurt even killed because they helped someone who appeared to be in need.
I am reminded of an incident that had happened late December of last year. A South Carolinian young lady gave a ride to a stranger who seemed harmless enough. Little did she know that this harmless looking man was a dangerous criminal who would change her life forever. She was attacked and assaulted. Her vehicle was totaled. Her medical bills have piled up to over $250,000, and she is facing paralysis. With no medical insurance, she has been moved from one hospital to another.
I can’t imagine what she must be going through in her mind as she spends time in rehab, having to re-learn how to do everything; going through the terrors of the attack. She is probably blaming herself for being naïve and for being kind enough to help a total stranger. She will never open that door again. She will never trust a stranger again. Her innocence was taken. All it takes is one bad apple to spoil the rest.
We live in a world where people feel entitled to things; they feel there is no need to be thankful for things they have, even if someone went out of their way to help. I know of family members who have been burned time and time again for their kindness, taken advantage of, and even had property stolen by the very same family members they have helped. Sometimes it could be ungrateful kids who seem to complain about everything we do to provide for them. We buy them clothes, and they turn around and complain because they are not brand names.
My wife and I had an old car we wanted to get rid of. We were looking at selling it for $2500 and using the money for the school in Zambia. A family we knew was going through some tough times financially. The husband had expressed to me they needed money quickly or they would have their utilities shut down. I wrestled with the idea of giving them the car verses selling it to help the school. I told them the car needed a new battery and a few minor fixes that wouldn’t cost a lot. They could sell it as is, or fix it and then sell it and use the money to pay bills. A week later when I signed the car title over and handed the keys to the couple, the first thing that came out of the husband’s mouth was, “I was hoping it was drivable so we could sell it right away.” I was dumbfounded by his comment. I was tempted to tell him to give me back the title and keys, but I restrained myself. They went on to sell the car and never said a word of thanks; not even a thank you card in the mail. We felt used, manipulated, and unappreciated, and that the school in Zambia could have used the money more than the couple, but we never regretted our act of kindness towards them.
We never know how people will respond; whether they will appreciate our generosity or brush it off as nothing. People can be self-centered and can totally disregard the feelings of others to get what they want. Should we stoop so low to their level and stop helping others? One of the most difficult things in life is to forget when our act of kindness has been violated or worse yet, having to suffer because we opened our door to help others. How long can we keep being kind or keep giving when people we help seem to step on our toes?
As a Christian, I am called to do good to all people, even those who would hurt me. The world tells us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The problem with this kind of mentality is that there is no end to the cycle of revenge. If you burn my house, I burn yours. If you treat me badly, then I will do the same in return. There are bad apples out there, but there is also good ones. Do not let the bad apples spoil the good ones.
Have you had an incident happen to you that made you think twice about showing kindness to others? How did you handle it?