The smell of my grandpap’s Marsh Wheeling Stogies wafted throughout the cab of his company truck. I sat holding a glass gallon jug, off on an adventure with him which included a stop at the local Tastee Freeze to get their special brew of root beer. My 6 year old fingers held tightly to the jug as we drove the 5 miles down the mountain into the small town of Wellsburg, WV.
Once the jug was filled, my gradpap surprised me with a special treat. “Two ice cream cones” he ordered, and my excitement could hardly be contained. One for me and one for him. This was indeed a wonderful surprise and one to which I was unaccustomed. The soft, silky texture was enough to put a star on this already special day.
But then, he went even further. “Make them ‘dipped’.” I had visited the Tastee Freeze on rare occasions and only lusted for that special added feature. It cost another nickel and that was just too much of a splurge. Grandpap paid for the cones and handed me mine. I started eating it on my way to the truck for the return trip home.
Then tragedy struck. As he opened the truck door for me to climb in the truck, my cone fell to the cindered parking lot. My heart sank. I am sure my grandpap saw a tear start welling up or maybe even a whimper sneak out. Without hesitation, he handed me his. “Here, take this one. I don’t need one anyway.”
That single act of kindness happened over 50 years ago and is still seared in the part of my brain where I keep all my fond memories. I was interviewed by a paper recently on the topic of kindness. The reporter was trying to understand the effect of kindness on people. Her premise was that kindness was in short supply and she was trying to understand why. She asked me if I thought we were born kind and that society takes it away from us. I told her that I believed that we are taught to be kind and that we let society rob us of this wonderful virtue.
I recently listened to my old football coach, Bobby Bowden, as he spoke at a fundraiser for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He told a story about being on a talk radio program where he fielded an interesting question. “Have the young men whom you coached changed over the years.” Coach Bowden thought hard over his career which spanned over 50 years and had what I thought was a very insightful reply. “The young men who come to play ball have not changed. The parents have.”
If we are indeed taught how to be kind, where else do we learn this trait than through our family? There are too many young men and women being brought up in environments which model selfishness and anger. “Grab what you can and don’t worry about the people around you.” If the adage of “you reap what you sow” is correct (and I think it is), the lack of kindness in the world is present because it was sowed.
Even as I write this article, it is on a plane headed to where I will be working with five couples who are struggling in their marriage. I haven’t met them yet, but I guarantee that many of their problems are because they quit being kind to each other. Some will even feel that they are justified in treating their spouse poorly. They don’t realize that in doing so, they will also reap what they sow. Kindness begets kindness.
While on the plane, a neighboring passenger opened up her carry on beverage only to have it explode out of the bottle. She quickly put the lid back on but not before it got on her and the innocent passenger beside her. The woman apologized and the other woman was very understanding. Another passenger saw the predicament and quickly offered some paper towels she had available. i had some wet wipes that helped clean up the sticky mess. Kindness and understanding flew into motion. I think it is still alive and well and hopefully will always reign. The beverage that was spilled… root beer.