Here at the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival, we’ve been working our way through the fruits of the Spirit and have now made our way to “kindness.” But although there are scriptures about kindness, the two scriptures that kept coming to my mind were these two:
Mark 12:29-31 “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor has yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
It had been a stressful year. I had moved out of my parents’ house and almost three hours away from home to be near my boyfriend. With little more than a high school diploma, an ’84 Chevy Caprice Classic and a smile, I entered the real world—or rather, the world of the working poor.
I was trying to live on love, but it wasn’t easy. Shortly after I moved to town, my boyfriend joined the ranks of the unemployed and I was stretching my tiny paycheck to help with his rent, his electricity, and his meals.
After working for a few months as a secretary with a temp service, I got a steady, but part-time job, working in the mail room of a large insurance company. I was living in a room a little larger than a walk-in closet and making just enough to pay my $250/month rent, put just enough gas in the car to get to and from work, and buy some spaghetti and a bag of apples. Just when I thought the money was going to run out, I got called into the supervisor’s office. Was I interested in doubling my hours (and my pay) to move to a different department?
And so I moved down to “the dungeon”—the windowless office behind the mail room—where we fifteen women spent eight hours a day folding insurance paperwork and stuffing it into envelopes.
When fifteen women spend that much time each day, alone in a small room, they will either become competitive and hate each other or they will become very close, like a little family. And that’s what happened to us. We sat at our desks, facing each other, folding and stuffing our mail, talking about our lives and becoming a little family.
I was the newest and the youngest member of the group and so I was well watched-over. About halfway through my second week of taking lunch break with the gang, Arlene, noticed that I had only an apple for lunch. I put on my best Oscar-winning performance, insisting that I was perfectly satisfied with my apple. But the next day when we left the dungeon for the cafeteria, Arlene leaned over and whispered, “Grab your purse. You’re coming home with me.”
I was a little shocked, but didn’t want to hurt her feelings by turning her down. I followed her to her car and rode the two or three miles to her little ramshackle rental house. She sat me down at the kitchen table with a plastic cup of sweet tea and then proceeded to go over to the stove and fry up two Spam sandwiches.
Now, in my twenty years, I had never tasted Spam and when I did, I immediately decided to never eat it again. But on that day, I wouldn’t have shunned Arlene’s Spam sandwich for anything in the world. With a touch of her kindness to wash it down, it wasn’t hard at all to eat that sandwich.
Four weeks later, the board of directors called us all into the cafeteria to tell us that we were all being laid off and that the company was closing our branch due to the computer systems not being Y2k compliant. Four weeks after that, we fifteen ladies came out of the dungeon and scattered fifteen different directions.
The scriptures I shared above were about love, but isn’t kindness just the outward manifestation of love? Isn’t kindness just love with hands and feet? Today, I can’t even remember most of the names of the ladies that were the first “family” I had after I left home, but the memory of Arlene’s love and kindness has never dimmed in my mind. She gave a broke, homesick young girl a little bit of spam and a whole lot of kindness.
** Remember to go by Bridget Chumbley’s site to see the rest of the carnival entries on Kindness!