How to Scatter Unusual Kindness

How to Scatter Unusual Kindness

March 28, 2017

“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.” Acts 28:1-2 (NIV)

Devotion Graphic

Have you ever read a story on social media about someone who did something over-the-top for a stranger? Like tipping a server not just the standard 20 percent, but maybe 500 percent? I love these stories of excessive thoughtfulness, but Facebook isn’t the only place we find them.

Tucked in the pages of the New Testament is a two-word phrase that leapt off the pages of my Bible one day. It rearranged my thinking and became somewhat of a life mission. A subtle perspective shift that enables me to view each day as an adventure. It’s a straightforward concept that usually costs little but time, but still it seems mighty scarce these days.

In Acts 28:1-2, we encounter some unnamed natives who dwelt on a remote island where a boatload of people — including the apostle Paul — suddenly found themselves shipwrecked in the middle of a storm.“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness.”

Unusual kindness. Their welcoming behavior toward the group of strangers was so uncommon that Scripture doesn’t just chronicle this encounter with the single word “kindness.” Instead, the adjective “unusual” was intentionally hitched to kindness to give us a glimpse of the godly and counter-culture behavior of these folks.

I love the reason given for this above-and-beyond behavior. It doesn’t say this unusual kindness was shown, because “Paul and his companions were important people.” Nope. It doesn’t declare that the welcome and warmth was given (literally with a freshly built fire!), because “the people from the shipwreck had the exact political and theological views as the islanders.” No again. They were treated with this unusual kindness because … wait for it …

“… it was raining and cold.”

Today we encounter all sorts of people who are up against the elements, perhaps not physically with rain or cold, but in life somehow nonetheless. We happen upon these people, knowing nothing about their beliefs or backgrounds. And perhaps they’re already in our everyday lives, right under our noses, but we have never stopped to help.

So, what can mimicking the Malta natives’ conduct look like for us today? And how do our acts of kindness morph into the unusual category?

Kindness holds the door open for an elderly person leaving the grocery store. Unusual kindness willingly carries their groceries all the way to their car, puts them in the trunk and sends them on their way with an “It was my pleasure,” when thanked.

Kindness is smiling at the maxed-out mom of two young kids pitching a royal fit in the department store toy aisle, rather than staring with stone-faced silence, judging her for her apparent lack of parenting skills. Unusual kindness recognizes all children misbehave, and this stressed-out mama is woefully outnumbered. So we tell her to hang in there. That she’s doing an important job. And maybe slip her a $10 bill and tell her to buy herself a large latte. She’s gonna need something to keep up her energy.

Kindness whispers a prayer for the just-moved-in-from-six-states-away neighbor who’s facing life (outside of work time) all alone. Unusual kindness invites him to your house for a weekend supper, folds him in to your family’s ordinary life and asks him questions to get to know him better.

Scatter some unusual kindness today. When you do, you’ll make someone’s day — and yours!

Father, as I encounter people today, help me remember the example of the islanders of Malta and show others unusual kindness done in Your name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Colossians 3:12, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (ESV)

Our next Online Bible Study, Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman starts next week! Join us as we step into a new, purpose-filled life of loving others the way Jesus does. Get your copy in the bookstore today, and you’ll receive 12 free bonus items from Karen!

Karen is so thrilled about the upcoming Online Bible Study for Listen, Love, Repeat, she’s doing a fabulous giveaway on her blog! Stop by to connect with Karen today!

Has someone ever shown you what you would consider unusual kindness? How did it make you feel?

List two or three ways you might display love toward someone within your sphere of influence, in a way that’s beyond the ordinary. Then, make plans to carry out one of these ideas in the next week.

© 2017 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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  1. The ‘unusual’ adds a new angle to my thinking – will be looking for opportunities.

    • I read a story about a student whose shoes were in pitiful shape. Kids being the way they are made fun of the student whose shoes were in pitiful shape. A fellow student found out what size of shoes his classmate wore and gave the principal vice principal or counselor the shoes, wantitng to stat anonymous. But the recipient of the shoes placed two and two together and knew who had given him the shoes. This not only stopped the bullying but he gained a new friend.

  2. Kimberley Wilson says:

    Thank you for this message. As a teacher I pray every morning that my eyes will be open to see students who could use a little extra kindness today. Could we imagine how much better our world would be if we could all do a little more unusually kind acts!

    • A praying teacher! Kimberly, you make my heart sing.

      I’m sure you work hard at the business of teaching, but know this: your prayers for your students exceed any skills you teach them. I envision a heavenly bowl for each student, engraved with his or her name, holding all the prayers offered up for them (“golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” – Revelation 5:8). Some bowls overflow with the prayers of parents, grandparents and friends. Some bowls would be empty if not for the incense of your prayers, Kimberly. You are a blessing!

      • Lisa Williams says:

        Usually kindness, will make someone’s day especially consider a person who has not treated you in the best way, God has blessed me to love everyone and to never take not so nice people personally. I Love everyone and I Thank my Beloved and Kind Sister Phylis Wagner sharing this story with me. I Love it and all of the examples of just Unusual Kindness towards others. Thank you

      • Amen!

    • Kimberly I totally agree with you.

  3. Marjorie Peirce says:

    I don’t know if any of these things would be considered unusual and remarkable kindness (per my Amplified Bible) but over the years, I have tried to listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit to reach out and help. Before Food Stamps was a ‘card’, you actually had a book that you tore out the pages for the items you purchased. It was pretty easy to spot someone on food stamps. Several times, the Lord would ask me to purchase items for a single mom or a senior who was on the stamps. I usually purchased things like Peanut Butter, Tpaper, shampoo, detergent, dishsoap, bar soap, blocks of cheese, extra bread, eggs, butter, mayo, tuna, soups, extra boxes of cereal… items that took a lot of the stamps to purchase or where not covered by the stamps (person cleaning products). It did not take but a few minutes of looking in their basket or following them down an isle or two to see what brand they liked, what cereal the kids were asking for, what flavors of soups, etc. Things like peanut butter and blocks of cheese provided a great deal of food value for growing kids but could cost a lot of stamps. I would then purchase the items and wait uoutside for them to come out to their car. Then I would go over and help them put their groceries in, along with the ones I had purchased. So many times, it was like I had handed gold. Having been on food stamps ourselves for a little over a year, I knew the feeling, the frustration, the guilt, the shame, etc. that one feels (or use to), that you could not provide for your children or family better. That you had to have a hand out to survive. After sharing with them a little, I would give them a hug… and if possible, pray with them. There was alway a connection of love between us. One woman thanked me and said, “you don’t know how good it is to have someone help me out of respect, not pitty.” When working in a Retirement/Assisted Living Facility, I would go into the dinning room at lunch time. I would offer to help the staff by pouring coffee for the residents. There were seveal who liked having a ‘hot cup’, so I would put hot water in it first.. .let it sit a minute or two and then empty it and put in the coffee. I always found a way to reach out and physically touch each person there. It might be a hand on the top of the shoulder… or touching their forearm. Many got to the point, where they would stand up so I could give them a hug. We forget that seniors are humans and every human enjoys a nice touch of love. Seldom does a senior get a hug or even a arm around the shoulders. It so perks them up. Gives them encouragement to keep going. Gives them a sense that they are of value yet and that someone truly cares. I also made a point of stopping at each table and talking with them. Even those who did little talking. After a bit even those men (usually) would start talking. By finding out a little about them from family or their paperwork, it was easy to find a subject that they loved to talk about. Again, showing respect and honor (that is shared in this Chap 28 as well.. respect and honor). It lifts their spirits. There is nothing sadder than sitting alone in a room with no one coming to see you … just clicking off time until you die. No one should have to live like that. Being a senior does not mean you are a throw away item not worth anything. Seniors have a great deal of wisdom and insight. They have lived through wars, multiple changes in the world … advancements in development in medicine, cars, and so much more. You can gleam a great deal from seniors … if you are willing to take a few minutes to sit down and ‘chat’ with them. And lately, God has led me to go through Drive Through’s for food and then pay for the car behind me. I’ve had one car who was only $1.98…. another large SUV (like a Suburban) loaded with teenagers and it came to $39.00. I’m on a fixed income (yes I’m a senior myself now), but God always provides the monies. I ask the cashier at the window to tell them that “God Loves Them”. They are always willing to do that. They have shared with me how some people will then pay for the car behind them. Or sometimes the women cry or just keep saying over and over…. ‘thank you. A couple of times, the car would find me further up the road and would roll down their windows and thank me personally. It always brings me to tears. One woman told me that she had had such a horrible day that she was wondering if life was worth living. She had seen no kindness at all… just bad manners and evil words… and she felt her life was not worth much (she was about mid 30’s) My act of kindness renewed her hope in mankind and in love. She was crying as she said it and so was I. She was going home and sitting down to map out a plan to improve her working situation and her life. I suggested she might look for a church close to her home ….. but that God loved her so much, that if she just called out to Him, he would be there for her. She said Thank You… smiled a big smiled and drove off. I try to pray for each one of these people for a few days. I don’t worry about what they think of me or how they feel about the message that God loves them. God has asked me to do this, so I do with joy. How they receive it… how they respond to His touch of love, is the Holy Spirits job.. not me. Kindness will never fall on barren ground and remain barren. It will always bring forth life.

    • You are a blessing. May you be blessed as you have touched hundreds of lives with unusual kindness. I pray I can be as selfless and giving as you.

    • Wow. God just used you again my sweet sister friend…to remind me that I’m not in charge of people’s motives..even those in the church. He has called me to obedience, not love, not correction of others. Thank’re definitely a senior with wisdom and love worth sharing! May your days be blessed..i bless God for women like you, willing to pour into others without exclusion. May i strive to be like Him, as you do!

    • Good morning…..Marjorie….Thank You so much for your story/devo this morning..
      How Uplifting…&….encouraging…you have made my morning…sweetheart…we have
      Tried ,also to do that..@ times..when our finances allow… it truly not a feeling
      Of awesomeness….no other way to put/say it….I will try to be more aware in the future…I truly have no problem to helping someone in need..but what really irks me is when they approach us..for money for gas &/or food…because they see that we drive a nice car…&…for us that car is a used Volvo…that part irks me..would they if we drove a pic of junk..?.??… If I am offending anyone I apologize…but that is the way I envision it…..

      Thanks again…Marjorie…..

      Have a blessed day guys……Kathy W

    • Marjorie- as I sit with my elderly mom who is recovering from surgery – your words are especially meaningful and timely. May God richly bless you for your thoughtfulness and unusual kindness shown to others. May you be shown the same kindness in return!

  4. This was my favorite Proverbs 31 Devotional ever. I loved this. Thank you.

  5. Sometimes I think unusual kindness should start at home. It’s easy to be kind to those outside the home but we tend to neglect those in our home. I try to show kindness at home first, and then it can’t spill out to others!!

    • Heavenly Father give Rebecca extra words of kindness and understanding for those in her home today. Open her eyes and heart to do your work every she goes. Thank you Lord for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen

  6. Beth Harris says:

    About 11 years ago, I had a miscarriage which required a “D&C” procedure. I was very upset at loosing the baby, as you might imagine. As I was being prepped, one of the nurses came over to me and asked if she could pray for me. I was so touched. I nodded yes and she held my hand and whispered the prayer in my ear. I never heard the words as I started drifting off from the anesthesia but I will never forget her and this kindness.

    • Oh sweet Papa, please hold Beth in your arms today. Thank for the kindness that the nurse showed her so many years ago, help Beth to reach out and love on others in the same way. Thank you for your love for us.

  7. I pray today that my kindness is even shown in the one I take unkindness from and that he may someday find the true meaning of love and kindness just as Jesus did.

    • Dear Lord, please help Kim. You know her, even the number of hairs on her head. You care about her, enough to die on the cross for her eternal salvation. Jesus, please have mercy on her, change her situation, open his eyes to your love help him to be more like you. Protect Kim and give her courage and strength as all things are possible with you.

  8. Such a beautiful devotion! I love the concept of putting “unusual” in front of the word kindness… Makes me want to go above and beyond! And as a mother of 7 young children I appreciate the example about the mother in the grocery store… Lord knows I’ve been there several times! 😉

  9. Around 7 years ago my family was going through financially difficult times…We had our first child and decided I would stay home. Losing that extra income was more difficult than we thought. God showed us his loving kindness through different people in our lives. We would come home and the yard was cleaned up, an envelope was dropped off with a hundred dollar bill as a “gift from Jesus”. We felt so loved!
    We have been able to surprise strangers now that we are in a better position. My favorite is leaving big tips at restaurants. I like leaving $100 bills and seeing their expression as we leave. It is so fun! And addicting! God is so good!

  10. Victoria says:

    Wow. Thank you for this and all the testimonies are amazing to read. Lord, go before each of us today. Quiet our hearts and minds that we would hear Your still small voice and obey the call to unusual kindness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

  11. God has used me many times is various situations to reach out to strangers. I always pray before I turnaround and go back to the ones I see in need. Sometimes God has removed them and I can’t find them, other times they’re there and in need. Not only have I felt God using me to reach out to these individuals but also to be a witness to my children. Some of these occurrences happened years ago but my kids still bring them up on occasion. I try to always remember our actions don’t only speak to the receiver but to those around us that witness it too. Thank you for this devotional! God Bless!

  12. Love this! I don’t recall reading this verse but it totally represents how the Holy Spirit has been nudging me to respond to people at work, customers and those difficult family relationships!! Thank you for sharing.

  13. I have been on both sides giving and receiving. I had a dear precious older lady friend whom I loved. I cleaned her home and did other odd jobs for her. She would always send me home with her awesome homemade soup! She ended up with lung cancer and was gone in 10 days. But she left me her brand new car! I was stunned, as I was driving a car that barely ran. That was 15 yrs ago and I still miss her.

  14. This devotional, and the responses, was a great reminder of what we can do right where we are. After reading this devotional I was inspired to send an email to someone I knew, who had done an “unusual act of kindness”, where she works. She works with the elderly and many of them are dealing with dementia. Yet, this young woman showers them with unconditional love. She may never get a “thank you” but I am sure those dear seniors sense and feel her love.

  15. I love this message! It reminds me of an encounter I had this weekend. I met a man sitting outside of a Dunkin Donuts store. It was a chilly 40 degrees. He was holding a cardboard with a message for help. I was moved to give the man a few dollars and I asked him if I could pray over him. Then I asked him what he needed. He asked for socks. I told him to wait as I hurried to the Walmart which was across the street. When I returned to give him the socks, his face shone like the sun! He was so happy that I met his request. I was happy that God used me to bring cheer to his heart and warmth for his feet!

    • What a beautiful gift! God’s goodness is really seen on this earth by people with a generous spirit. You have that generous spirit. Thank you for sharing your story. I will pray for that man and his warm feet!

  16. RoseMary Baty-Willcox says:

    I’m that person that has just moved into the new neighborhood for the past 17 years.
    My husband’s work has moved us 5 times and only once did we have neighbors welcome us. How do I welcome ourselves to the neighborhood without seeming pushy or nosey.

    • You might try asking your neighbors for advice on where in the area the good restaurants are, get their recommendation for a mechanic or hair salon, what cultural activities or music events happen nearby, and other things like that. You wouldn’t come across as pushy or nosey at all! Once you’ve broken the ice, most people will open up quite readily.

  17. Katie sexton says:

    I have never noticed this verse before. Thank you so much for this wonderful devotional today. I am praying for the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to someone today who needs my unusual kindness.

  18. Lisa Greter-Garner says:

    I really like the term unusual kindness. It gives me the idea to be creative and think outside the box. And to see how I can bless someone in a new and different way.

  19. Beautiful, Karen!! Thank you!
    Related: Jesus replied, ‘God’s 2nd Greatest Commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself’ (paraphrased). This verse is so well-known that it’s meaning is often forgotten and, therefore, we need a reminder… genuine love, for believers and non-believers. God sends people, contacts, into our lives each day. Treat them as “kin” to Jesus and to yourself… because they ARE or could be some day soon. (Matt. 22:38-40)

  20. To RoseMary, ask God to show you who you should or could visit in your neighborhood. Some people will be blessed by a visit from a neighbor. Sometimes there will be someone you never thought of, but God knows who those people are and He will show you. He might ask you to ask them to church or talk with them about Jesus. You could just bring them something homemade to start out with. You need to be bold though and then once you break the ice, it is much easier.

  21. With the busyness of the world, it’s hard to remember to make time/do for others. There is a great app – yes there’s an app for it – to help come up with ideas of how to serve others on a daily basis. It’s called the Hands and Feet app.

  22. Excellent advice! Thanks for the reminder. It’s so easy to get so caught up in life that you forget what a blessing be kind to others can be. It blesses them and you!

  23. I LOVE this! Thank you! One simple sentence that we could have easily passed over and now, you have given us inspiration to go out and be light in a dark world.

  24. Lea Larson says:

    Thank you so much for this devotion today. I really needed to read this before I begin my day at work.

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for very encouraging words!

  26. so relevant to the times we are living in and how to apply the Word in our everyday lives! Also cool to see Malta being mentioned in the Word, and that my native people are known for their “unusual kindness” and for living this truth out!! Touched my ❤️
    Thank you for sharing this with us today, and being obidirkt to the calling God has placed on y’all!! Xoxo

  27. I loved this devotion, thank you!! I cannot wait to look for more ways to be unusually kind!

  28. Rachel Pike says:

    I love the example of blessing a worn out mama with coffee money or even a gift card. That is so great! We moms need little touches of encouragement like that from time to time. Every one of us do! Not to long ago a,gas station clerk simply gave a genuine smile as she rang me out. It literally made my afternoon. She was simply being herself but her smile was a gift to me on that particular day. You just never know…

  29. Michelle says:

    I love this one. I will definitely be working on this from now on. Can’t wait the study to start.

  30. JACKIE GORE, Iam writing this because of the agape love I have been shown in my Small Group.They are throwing
    me a LAUNCH andBOOK SIGNING EVENT this coming weekend April 1. I had my first book published and they
    have shown real love and asked nothing in return.
    I feel so blesssed and it was orchestrated by my HEAVENLY FATHER!!!!!!!

  31. Beth Redman says:

    Thirty two years ago I was in Athens Al. in town it was Nov 17 1985, It was very cold out side. I saw a man and a lady carrying a baby with a very small then blanket wrapped around it the man and lady had on light weight jackets.They where walking down the road, I passed them and something hit my heart and said turn around and go pick them up, I was like WHAT ! what if they are really bad people and I have a baby with me, I went through the red light almost reaching hwy 31 I turned around in a drive way went back and past the couple again so I pule din 2 driveways ahead of them. I ask them if they would like a ride, they said they had to go pay there electric bill so I took them to pay there bill. I then ask where do you live I will take you home , WOW they lived 2 min away from me in Tanner, So I had to run to Kmart and they sat in the van with my baby and a van full of grocery. Talking about trusting God I thought while inside OH my gosh what if they drive off I left the van running. But I came out quickly and thank God they where all still waiting on me. I took them home they said they had to walk to town every month to pay there bill. I told them I would be glad to take them any time, And found out there baby was the same age as mine. Now I was very happy I picked them up and I know God was watching over me and Jade the whole time.

  32. Susan G. says:

    I loved this!
    I never paid attention to that one word, “unusual” when I read those verses before.
    It does make a difference!
    Thanks for this!

  33. It’s amazing to me that the Holy Sprit will bring one word to you, & that you are sensitive enough to leave your readers thinking about that passage. As a result I am challenging myself to do “one unusual kindness” for someone each day.

  34. Love this!! (pun intended :-)) You brought such life to those 2 little words – thank you!

  35. God thank you for those who help and not hurt becauae they have an unusual spirit of kindness

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