I wish you could meet my friend Vanessa! She’s the perfect example of the gospel bound in tennis shoes. When she began attending our Bible study, she was a single mom to three teenagers and, believe me, she’d had her share of “makings and breakings.” Maybe that’s why she had that special something, a contagious happiness, sparkly eyes, and a quick laugh—especially about jokes on herself.
We were just finishing up the distribution of 50 ten-kilo care packages to poor people—most of them widowed or disabled—in a hall at the edge of one of the largest slums in East Africa.
Happy to have completed the project, I turned to leave when my colleague Sally held up the last package, saying, “Before we close, let’s quickly deliver this one to Willie up the hill. He isn’t able to walk down here.”
I walked slowly into Japanese Conversation class and plopped wearily into my usual seat. In the last semester of college, fatigue and mental overload was taking its toll. As graduation drew near, I was beginning to struggle with the foreboding prospect of job hunting while completing the last leg of my studies. And of all my subjects, this was the worst. I dreaded the three hours of twisting my tongue to capture the cadences of conversation in a foreign language.
A well-known story tells of a man who was walking along a beach at sunset and noticed a young boy in the distance who kept bending down, picking something up, and throwing it into the water.
As the man approached, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and was throwing them back into the water. The man asked the boy what he was doing.
When the apostle Paul was writing about living a godly life, he listed what he called the “works of the flesh,” which included things like enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, and envy.1 He then followed up with “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”2 The fruit of the Spirit is the working of the Holy Spirit within us, which causes us to grow in godliness and Christlikeness.
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
—Mark Twain (1835–1910)
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)
As I write this a very good friend of mine is struggling with wave after wave of hard news. Her husband has been laid off from a job he held for 27 years, she had a suspicious mammogram, their home AC has gone out, and they had to put down a family pet. No tragedies, yet, but plenty of hard stuff—the stuff that makes you ask “Why, God?” or “Are You there, God? Do You notice these things? Do You care?”
“In the world of pain there is a need for love, a real, real need for love… Love your brother… a need of love, a need of heart.” These words, translated from the famous song by the Colombian singer Juanes, paint a picture of humanity’s universal need for love.1 “Everybody needs love” rang out another song from the sixties.2 And with the countless social conflicts, outbreaks of violence, cries of outrage, the scourge of the pandemic, along with the “viruses” of selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-service and other diseases of our times, what we need most is love.
Charity, an Activated reader for many years, had a well-paying job in the banking industry. She had recently finished her second master’s degree from a prestigious international university. She had then given birth to a set of twins, a boy and a girl. But rather than being elated, Charity was gazing tearfully through the glass of the incubator, gazing at the little form of her sleeping son.
After 21 years of marriage, I discovered a new way of keeping the spark of love alive.
A little while ago I went out with another woman.
It was really my wife’s idea.
“I know that you love her,” she said one day, taking me by surprise.