Kindness once is a small stone skipped in the large lake of a life. The ripple is visible and meaningful in the moment — but eventually it will fade. Repeated kindness, on the other hand, creates an ongoing impact. Like pebble upon pebble upon pebble ricocheting off the glassy water. The rings of influence widen, the depth of impact deepens. When the stones keep coming, they’re sure to create waves of lasting change.
When I think about the impact of perpetual kindness in my life, I think of my friend Esther.
I met Esther my sophomore year of college when she was the new, twenty-something staffer for the campus ministry I was involved in. The ministry encouraged discipleship. I didn’t really know what it meant to be “discipled,” but I longed to grow in my faith and for someone to guide the way.
Esther and I started meeting weekly in my beige cinder block dorm room. I guess I expected to learn about the Bible and how to love Jesus more. I thought someone more spiritually mature could keep me accountable with my boyfriend and my progress with Scripture memory. I was a high achiever and eager to add “good Christian” to my accolades. But Esther didn’t give me a list of spiritual checkboxes. Instead, she taught me what it meant to care for someone’s heart. She taught me about the kindness of Jesus by living it.
When Esther asked a question, she leaned in to hear the answer. She was at ease in my awkward silence. She wasn’t afraid of the messy parts of my past or how confused I felt about pieces of my present. Esther just wanted to be with me.
One Thursday afternoon, several months into our meetings, we decided to hang out at Starbucks instead of in my dorm. With mocha Frappuccinos sweating between us, we huddled around a small table along the far wall of windows. Through the haze of time I don’t remember the story I told or the problem I was processing, but I do remember how Esther suddenly reached into her bag and pulled out a collapsible keyboard and attached it to her Palm. (Yes, this was long before the days of smartphones and tablets.) As I talked, Esther started typing. I asked what she was doing.
“I usually take notes about our time together later,” she explained, “but what you’re sharing is really important. I don’t want to forget it.”
I must have had a strange look on my face because Esther quickly added, “I just want to remember how to pray for you and be able to follow up later on what we’ve talked about today. Does that make you feel uncomfortable?”
“No. Not uncomfortable.” I wiped the tears that emerged without warning. “It makes me feel seen. Loved. Invested in . . . like no one ever has.”
Esther’s thoughtful questions and attentive listening made me feel cared for in a way I had never experienced before. We continued to meet regularly for more than two years. I was sold on the life-changing power of discipleship. But Esther’s impact in my life wasn’t because of a certain organization or curriculum. Esther changed my life because she was one person who showed up over and over to love and serve another person.
She saw me and accepted me, right where I was, from right where she was.
TODAY: Ask a friend how they’re really doing and lean in to listen to the answer.
Written by Becky Keife, adapted from her (in)courage book, The Simple Difference.
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