I’m thinking about the phrase “unnecessary kindness” that I read in someone’s blog story this morning. The scenario was common enough: letting someone into a line when you’ve been waiting your turn. The outcome was less common: the merging driver pays your toll.
Yesterday, I finished reading my colleague Brenda Jernigan’s Every Good and Perfect Gift, which ends with a similar “unnecessary kindness.” In a hospital lobby, a young woman awaiting news of her mother’s stroke condition befriends a father awaiting news of his son’s motorcycle accident condition. Maggie, who has periodically seen visions of a female divine, puts aside her frustration that her faith doesn’t guarantee her mother’s health and prays for/with the distraught father. His son survives and we’re led to believe that his father will re-prioritize his life. This brief encounter—between the devout and the religiously lost—proves salvific for Maggie’s mother, as well. Religious readers, I presume, would claim the power of prayer for what happens. But it’s just as possible, it seems to me, that Maggie’s “unnecessary kindness” creates a human connection that, in turn, unnecessarily rewards. For, you see, the father has money and connections, enabling him to secure an experimental operation, which saves Maggie’s mother.
All secular vs. religious arguments aside, is the difference so very important? Doesn’t hospitality embrace both, fostering a world where we are unnecessarily kind and welcoming? Despite guilty relief following a long-suffering loved one’s death or an almost incapacitating level of worry, humans reach out to others. Whether from the heart or the soul, humans perform acts of “unnecessary kindness,” the impact of which can change a frantic moment, a bad day, or a misguided life.
I believe that hospitality in the form of such “unnecessary kindness" can improve our lives and our world.