“He who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self-sacrifice.” ~Henry Taylor
One day last week, middle daughter and I watched the movie Evan Almighty. We’ve viewed it before, but both of us just wanted to veg out and watch something light-hearted.
I remembered the basic story line of the movie – God tells Evan to build an ark – but one of the things I’d forgotten was near the end when Morgan Freeman (as God) converses with Steve Carrell (as Evan) and draws the letters ARK in the dirt. Turns out what God wanted Evan to do was an Act of Random Kindness (ARK).
That thought reminded me of an action we witnessed during our recent trip south to move oldest daughter back to our home state. We were settling into our seats for the first leg of our flight. I turned around to see where middle daughter was located since her assigned seat wasn’t in our row. My husband nudged me and said, “Look, do you see that?”
A well-dressed gentleman already seated in the airplane’s full first class section must have noticed a man in uniform – a military man – board the plane. The gentleman came back to the coach section, spoke quietly to the soldier, and without making a production out of it, offered his seat in first class to the serviceman.
“What a wonderful thing to do!” I thought. It blessed my heart to see someone honor and respect one of our military, especially since it was the 10th anniversary weekend of 9-11. That definitely was one of those acts of random kindness and I doubt if very many people sitting on that plane even noticed what took place.
On our next flight, which again had full first class and coach compartments, I noticed a member of the military sat in the row in front of me. No one on that plane offered him a first class seat. And that made me start to ponder this question – what compels a person to give up something of value for another person? And more importantly, am I willing to sacrifice for someone else, even a complete stranger?
The gentleman on our first flight willingly gave up his expensive seat and, by all appearances, he did so without wanting to claim any glory, thanks, or attention for himself. That’s a truly giving person – one who expects nothing in return.
Witnessing those two separate events made me contemplate some questions on the rest of the flight. And today, I can’t stop thinking this over and confronting myself. What am I willing to give up? Would I give up a better, more expensive seat on an airplane to a soldier? Would I even think to do such a thing, would it cross my mind, or would I be so preoccupied with myself that I wouldn’t even notice that soldier? Do I even pause to realize the sacrifices our military personnel make for me?
I’d like to think that I do. After all, I am a former military wife. I know the sacrifices our countrymen and women in the armed forces make each day just so I can live in freedom. I believe I understand what any person who serves others gives up, be they firefighters, police, or medical personnel just to protect and rescue people like me.
Likewise, I think I’m someone who notices others, especially when they need help. But the truth of the matter is, I can be just as selfish as anyone. Am I selfless only when it doesn’t impact me that much? When I don’t have to really sacrifice anything? Am I only willing to give up things that don’t matter to me or aren’t that important? I may feel satisfied when I give unwanted or unworn items to Goodwill, but would I be willing to give a favorite item to someone who needed it?
Maybe giving up a first class seat to another wasn’t a big deal for that gentleman. But the impact it made on me is a big deal. When I consider what God has done for me, what He has given up so I may live, I am dumbstruck. God, the Father, sacrificed his only Son on the cross to pay for my transgressions. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” ~ 1 John 4:10
Jesus, the Son, gave up everything for me. He gave up His home in glory for a time to come to earth and live among us as one of us. Then He made the ultimate sacrifice, experienced the pain and agony of the cross, and gave up His very life for me, for all of us. 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Any sacrifice I may offer can never compare. So what must I do? I believe the answer is live for Him. God’s Word tells me, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” ~Ephesians 5:1-2
Hebrews 13:16 also reminds me, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” But to give just for the sake of sacrifice means nothing, so I must endeavor to do everything I can, give up whatever I need to, in love so others may come to know Him by my acts. “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” ~ Mark 12:33
Yes, I may perform an ARK, an act of random kindness, but the important aspect is will others see Jesus in me? Do I accomplish my ARKs for His glory, not my own?
As I contemplate these thoughts in today’s book of Opportunity, Chapter 9, Page 19, I marvel at the way God speaks to me even while witnessing one small act of random kindness on a crowded airplane.