Why a Codger Doesn’t See Kindness

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I firmly believe I continue to learn from every human being with whom I come into contact.  I am learning who I want to be, and I am learning who I do not want to be.

And I remind myself the same is true of the reverse.  Some days I could literally be a good example and a bad example for others all in a ten minute span, depending on how mature I’m choosing to act that particular day.

I didn’t really pay much attention to the older man in the overalls in the checkout line at Walmart in front of my husband and me.  Older men in overalls in Whitley County are certainly a common sight. He loaded his groceries on the conveyor belt. Chad and I started to load ours, and then the cashier asked the man in front of us if he would like to round his purchase to the nearest dollar and donate his change to help the hungry in our community.

His answer came out loud and harsh.  “Nobody ever donates to me! Why should I donate to them?” The cashier, my husband, and I were all a bit taken aback.  I thought a simple, “No thank you” would have been sufficient. Of course, I did what I always seem to do; I was immediately irritated and appalled. Ten minutes later I was praying for him and pitying such a hostile, sad human being.

His twenty-nine cents probably wasn’t going to be earth shattering in helping feed the hungry, but added with my sixty-three cents, plus the eighteen cents behind me, plus the ninety-one cents after that?  Well, by putting all of our change together, we weren’t going to feed the entire county, but together we could feed someone. We could at least feed one.

I’ve never been truly hungry.  Oh sure, I’ve complained with the best of them as I fasted for a medical procedure, or sometimes when I’ve just been too busy to eat, but let’s be real: I have never had to deal with a truly empty pantry.  I also know that my unimaginable is a reality for some. Based on this man’s girth, I would guess he hasn’t missed too many meals in his lifetime. I wondered if standing there grumbling . . . I wondered if he could be thankful that he’d in all likelihood never had to depend on the kindness of strangers just to physically feed his body.

He was obviously upset no one had ever donated to him in general.  If someone had told my husband and me that at one point in our lives we would depend upon the good people of our community to help us financially, we would have laughed.  Our children were our responsibility. That’s why we saved money. We lived a frugal life. We were planners. And then one sunny day, a situation literally turned in front of us which would necessitate thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of ongoing medical bills.  Even the frugal planners of the world couldn’t plan for something so catastrophic. I wondered if the man could be thankful that he’d in all likelihood never had to depend on the generosity of others simply to keep him from losing almost everything.

As we talked about it, my husband had a valid point.  Chad said, “He says nobody has ever donated to him in his life, but think about all that’s been donated to him.”  We talked about the donations of smiles from the known and unknown which tend to brighten our days and lighten our steps.  You can’t tell me he’s never received the donation of a smile.

  • Or a kind word.
  • Or someone helping him locate an item when he couldn’t find it.
  • Or a public education with the bill footed by his community.
  • Or a teacher who took extra time to work with him at recess or after school when he was struggling with a concept.
  • Or his parents parenting him.  Seriously, is there any greater “donation” than the forgiveness, grace, love, and provision parents provide here on Earth?
  • Or someone making his favorite meal or dessert.  Donating time to make a dish he or she knew would please him.
  • Or helping him when he needed advice, or faced a difficult challenge, or when he just needed the donation of a friend’s listening ear.

I could keep the list going, Dear Reader, but you get the picture.

And so as I reflect on this old codger, I realize his life has either gone one of two ways. One, he truly hasn’t had people in his life who “donated” their love and commitment to him. Or two, he’s a man well-advanced in years and even after all his life experience, he still chooses not to see that actually, his whole life, people have been donating to him over and over and over again.

And he probably wonders why he doesn’t feel as if people have donated to him, but he wouldn’t like my answer.  Kindness. I believe one has to offer kindness to receive it. And only he can make that choice in his life. And that’s why, when the whole scenario was said and done, I certainly wasn’t mad at him.  I could only pity and pray for him. Man, I hope he chooses to see the goodness around him and know that his current attitude is not how it all ends for him because there is so much more.

Until next Wednesday, Lord willing.  I’m still debating if next week will be a funny theater story or something more serious.  I guess we will all find out! Thank you so much for reading, and perhaps, recommending this blog to others.