There are people in this world that have no idea what they have done. The significant role they have played in my life. The way my voice cracks or my eyes tear-up when I think about them. Speak their name. See their picture.
These people marked the most painful pieces of my life with kindness. Many will tell you they were just doing their jobs. And maybe they were. I mean, of course they were. Obviously. But their kindness…it overstepped the boundaries of obligation.
If you were to look at my life, you would see these people as peripheral. You probably wouldn’t identify them as major characters in my autobiography. Or maybe you would. Perhaps an outside eye would be able to see what I am continually baffled by.
“Why did someone go above and beyond the call of duty to extend kindness to me in my darkest days?”
“Why does she remember me?”
“Why does he care?”
I’ve got nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I usually try to earn a memory…the care and concern of others. I work hard. I’m friendly to others. I try to be optimistic. I’m a problem solver. I like to be present and interact and become part of a bigger story. I get that. It makes sense to me.
But this doesn’t. This doesn’t make sense at all. Not one bit.
These people are from the seasons of life I’d like to erase. Close my eyes and wish away.
But these people saw worth in those moments. They wouldn’t have stepped into my story otherwise.
Because being kind takes effort and energy. Kindness is intentional. You don’t just fall into it. You have to want to be kind.
I don’t think it was out of pity. Pity is transient. These people are invested. Years later. Invested. It’s astonishing to me.
I know that a large part of it is simply a reflection of their character. These people are just “those kind of people.” The kind that remember your face and the name of your childhood dog. Whose home is always open to a guest. Who is passionate about their work, family, and faith. Who lives intentionally. With purpose. In service.
They are. They’re just those kind of people.
But even they can’t be that for everyone. Even they must pick and choose. Even they are faced with the decision: which person out of this sea of people will I invest in today?
So why? Why me?
Suddenly I begin to see a bigger picture. One that might sound prideful, but still, it must be said.
In those dark seasons of life, I did not even feel like a person anymore. I was a shadow. Death slowly swallowed me and hope drifted further and further away.
Yet still…from the shadows…my eyes must have reflected some light.
I thought it had vanished: my ambition, my determination, my hopes, my dreams, my aspirations, my diligence, my purpose, my strength. I felt like a ghost. An empty shell. Whether I gave these things away or they were stolen from me…at the end of the day, they were as I: lost.
But it’s impossible to loose your identity. Your personality. Your character. For as long as my lungs breath oxygen, I will possess a unique aura that is distinctly Brittany.
We change. We grow. Some parts fade and others are nurtured from seedlings planted in our hearts. But our identity…it’s there. It’s constant. It cannot be obliterated. Despite our best and worst efforts. We cannot be destroyed.
The Lord left some life in my eyes. Although I was often unable to communicate using the spoken (or even written) word, He never separated me from my identity. He was doing a great work within me. He used those dark times to minister to my soul. But while he was healing the broken pieces of my spirit, he left my virtues. And every once-in-a-while, the light would catch a corner and they would sparkle.
But the sparkle was brief. To have any chance of being noticed, someone would have had to be looking for it. That’s where those people come in. The kind of people who look into a sea of individuals and pick a few to extend a hand of kindness to.
I may never know or understand the why. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s better that way.
Even now–years later–these people still impact my life. The words and acts of kindness they extended to me in the past continue to echo into my future. Their occasional hello, comment, or smile…it sends me back into a tailspin of thankful reflection.
When I think of them, I am filled with gratitude. When they think of me, I am filled with…purpose? Value? Worth? Yes. I am filled with purpose, value, and worth. For who invests time and energy in a hopeless case? Who extends kindness to a person without a future?
So what am I to do with this? These people are walking around the world completely oblivious to the monumental impact they have made on my life. And knowing these people…I can’t be the only one to have been touched by their kindness. A thank you just doesn’t do them justice. Trust me. I’ve tried.
So I do the only thing I know to do. I pay it forward. I try to interact with people in a way that conveys the fact that they have purpose, value, and worth. When they look at themselves in the mirror, I want them to see what I see. Beauty.
A smile. A ride to a meeting. A cup of coffee. A hug. An email. Whatever the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear, really.
So my prayer tonight is this. Use me, Lord. Use me.