Look for the good

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2023

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By Marie Harrison

While my son and his cross country team were up in Boone over the summer for team camp, one night, they decided to go to a local ice cream shop.

As you can imagine, an ice cream shop in August is pretty busy during the after-dinner hours, and once you add in a bus full of hungry teenagers, there is quite a wait in line to get their ice cream. As they stood there, my son began talking to the man in line behind him. In just a few short minutes, my son and the man had struck up a conversation.

With nothing else to do but wait for their turn at the ice cream counter, each one shared a little bit about who they were. The man was a retired military officer who spent many years stationed in Hawaii. My son shared about his cross-country team and introduced a few of the others in line with him. As they finally got up to the counter to pay, still chatting away but now with ice cream in hand, the gentleman did something unusual. He paid for everyone’s ice cream. Not just his, not just my son’s. He paid for the whole group of kids who were standing in line in front of him. What a kind gesture from a virtual stranger that really made an impact on my son and the rest of his friends.

But kind people aren’t just found in Boone ice cream shops. Over spring break, my family headed to Universal Studios and on one 90-plus-degree day, as we stood in the shade eating our ice cream, a kind British woman walked up to me and asked, “Is that Emma?” pointing to my daughter.

I was caught off guard, but because of her accent, I remembered chatting with this woman the day before as we stood in line for a show at the theme park. At the time, the woman had been juggling her own children and the children of all her friends who were off riding a roller coaster, so she was the designated guardian.

As we waited for the show, I tried to help her corral all the kids in her care. We laughed about the futility of trying to herd children, and we marveled at the theme park and all of the rides until the show began.

During the show, my daughter was selected as the sole participant from the crowd and got to come on stage and become part of the action. When we left, the woman and I parted ways, and I didn’t see her again until we happened to both stand outside the same ice cream shop the very next day.

You may wonder why this stranger was asking about my daughter. My guard was certainly up, and my maternal instincts were on high alert as I quickly ran through worst-case scenarios, but it was all for naught. This woman, a virtual stranger, wanted to know if we had purchased the wand given to my daughter during the show, and if not, she was going to go and buy the wand and gift it to my daughter. Wow! What a remarkably kind gesture from someone we didn’t even know!

But the older I get, the more I realize there are lots of kind people in the world. The news and social media would have you believe that everyone is out for blood and no one can be trusted, but I believe differently. I believe there is still good in the world. There are still kind people who pick up tabs at the ice cream shop for a bunch of high school boys or buy wands at Universal Studios for a complete stranger; there is still good in this world.

However, if you want to see the good, you have to look for it. If my son had been closed off, engrossed in his phone or dismissive of the older gentleman in line behind him, he never would have had the experience of meeting someone new or having his ice cream paid for.

If I’d been annoyed by the children bumping into me in line at Universal or quick to find fault with the woman who could barely control the six kids under eight who ran in circles around her, I never would have had the chance to see her offer a gift to my daughter. If you want to see kindness, I think you have to show it yourself.

In a fast-paced world with too many things to do and not enough time to do them, how often are we quick to speak and quick to anger? How often do we just stop and kindly chat with a stranger? And yet, isn’t that what we are called to do as believers? Doesn’t Christ call us to be different? When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus didn’t hesitate, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37). But Jesus didn’t stop there. He continued, “And a second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39).

When we show kindness to our neighbors to strangers we’ve never met, we are truly living out what Jesus called us to—loving God by loving people. Love can take many forms, from time spent in conversation to generous gifts of wands or ice cream. It’s really simple. Love God, love people. And ice cream never hurts.

Marie Harrison is the kid’s director at River Oaks Community Church.