Tell of the kindness

Photo: Jenny Gehman

In a world where you can be anything, be kind. 

— Message on a T-shirt I bought at a thrift shop

“We tell the story of your kindness all the time,” I wrote to Alberto in an email. “You are now famous.” 

He replied in broken English: “I did never imagine that something as simple as going for a run with your son would have that effect.”

Alberto, who is from Spain, lived with our little family almost 20 years ago. He was not only a businessman who came to learn English but an athlete training for the New York City marathon. Every day, he would lace up his shoes and head out on a run. And every day, our 12-year-old son Ryan, who was on the autism spectrum and being home-schooled at the time, would watch him with fascination.

One morning, after about a month of witnessing this routine, Ryan asked me if he could join Alberto on a run. My reply was a fast and firm no. While Ryan had boatloads of energy, he lacked any and all physical coordination at that time and had never run before. I didn’t want him to bother our new friend.

Ryan promptly ignored me and, possibly with an inner knowing that I lacked, marched up to Alberto. “Can I run with you?” he asked. 

Not yet having a command of the English language, Alberto simply smiled, said, “Si, si,” and off they went, Ryan in his Velcro shoes.

Seven miles later they returned. Seven miles! Ryan’s life has never been the same. 

Alberto returned to Spain and then flew back to the United States for the marathon, arranging for us to join him in New York. At the age of 13, Ryan was afforded the opportunity to watch, in person, the marathon he will now run in a few short months. It will be his fifth one and, God willing, far from his last. 

Ryan is now a sub-elite distance runner with the goal, and very good chance, of being a 2028 Olympic trials qualifier in the marathon. He tells others how running saved his life and Alberto’s kindness opened the door. He has made Alberto famous. 

Another person now famous for her kindness is an elderly woman I met during local elections a year or so ago. When I went to our neighborhood polling place to vote and stepped up to the registration table, she was on the opposite side. After finding my name on her roster, she looked up at me, spoke my full first name, Jennifer, and surprised me by asking, “Do you know what your name means?” Before I could answer, she told me, “It means gracious gift from God.” And kindness was bestowed upon my head.

I wrote a column about this (Aug. 19, 2022), and if you read it you might remember she got it wrong. “Gracious Gift” is not what my name means. It means “Fair One.” But that night, she named me new, and it was holy ground. 

When a man from Kansas by the name of Al read that column, he set about making little wooden coins emblazoned with the words, “Gracious gift from God.” He wanted to give them out to others, to carry on the kindness. 

As I write this, the story of that sweet woman’s kindness has gone out to over 10,000 people. And those coins Al makes have been placed into the hands of women living at a shelter, a high school youth group, 79 people at a family reunion, a group of graduating seniors and a young girl freshly rescued from sex-trafficking. All named as gifts. As grace. And I wonder: to what effect? I bet this woman would be astonished to know the impact of her kindness.

Jesus made someone famous, too. In Matthew 26, we read about an unnamed woman who came to Jesus with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it on his head. When the disciples grew indignant over this costly act of kindness, Jesus came to the woman’s defense. 

Not only did he tell the curmudgeonly disciples to leave her alone. Not only did he acknowledge her gift as good. He also went on to say, “Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her” (Matthew 26:13). 

Tell of the kindness, friends. Practice the kindness. Pass the kindness on.  

Jenny Gehman

Jenny Gehman is a writer and retreat speaker in Millersville, PA. Jenny writes a weekly devotional, Little Life Words, at Read More

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