Over thirty years ago she was driving alone at night in a rough area of
downtown Los Angeles. Catherine had exited from the freeway. As she braked at the end of the off-ramp the engine died suddenly. All the lights went out—headlights, dash lights—everything.
Worse yet, the inside of the car began filling with smoke.
She jumped out of the car only to see two men running towards her. One was holding a blanket that he had pulled from the trunk of their car. Catherine panicked, and her first thought was, “I’m dead.” But the men pushed passed her. One popped the hood of her car. That’s when she realized her engine was on fire. Flames were burning along the throttle line. The men used the blanket to smother the flames until they died out.
The two men had saved her car, saved her livelihood, and likely saved her life. They had done something kind for her at the same time they were putting their lives at risk. Once it was all over Catherine looked up to thank them. They were gone.
Now she had a dilemma. She had no way to repay the men who had helped her. Since she couldn’t do anything to repay them, she decided to return the favor by helping someone else. Twenty years later Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote the book Pay it Forward which was released as a major motion picture. In it a young boy named Trevor explained his idea of how he could help change the world:
If someone did you a favor—something big, something you couldn’t do on your own—and instead of paying it back you paid it forward to three people, and the next day they each paid it forward to three more, and the day after that those 27 each paid it forward to another three, and each day everyone, in turn, paid it forward to three more people, in two weeks that comes to 4,782,969.
His teacher said that it was an overly utopian idea. What do you think? The idea sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A young man has a mission to change the world. But he goes about it in a surprising way: through kindness.
You may not have thought of Jesus as being kind, but he was. Paul writes about “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” What you don’t hear in the English you can’t miss in the Greek. The word for kind is chrestos. The word for Christ is christos. You can’t hear this admonition in the original language without connecting kindness with Christ.
And according to Paul you cannot be the recipient of the kindness of Christ without paying it forward to others: “…be kind to one another.” God has been immeasurably kind to you and me. Like Catherine we cannot repay his kindness. We owe him everything.
But we can pay it forward. To others. To our enemies. Even to ourselves. We are never more like Christ—Christos—than when we are kind—chrestos.
Your assignment today is to be kind. Find someone who could use a demonstration of kindness. Add to that some words of kindness. And see if you don’t change just a small corner of the world.