Kindness on the run

I know the world seems to have gone crazy. But the kindness of strangers still exists. I experienced it on a recent morning run.

I was taking my usual route, a tree canopied trail through a wood where I regularly log a morning 2-miler. It’s just far enough to work up a sweat and close enough to shower and change before the work-from-home routine begins.

Probably half a mile in, I spotted a gray-haired guy ahead, wearing a hat and a jacket, with his back to me. He was off trail and didn’t appear to notice me. Good, I thought. I run early to avoid close contact in a pandemic. I don’t wear a mask when I run because it’s too hard to breathe.

It was a damp morning. And just as I came to the first of several wooden foot bridges, my feet slipped on the slick planks. Before I knew what was happening, I was sliding face-first to the ground. Screaming as I went, I landed in wet leaves and pine straw in a ditch beside the bridge. My car key went flying; my glasses, too. I clung to my phone.

As I lay there trying to collect myself, a hand reached for me. It was the man from up the trail. Asking if I was okay, he offered a hand up. I grabbed it, thanking him. His lined face was not covered by a mask. In a moment of human kindness, he forgot social distancing. He rushed to where I was, bent over me and pulled me to my feet with his bare hands.

Once I could stand, I recovered my senses and admonished him to step back. After all, I reminded him, “There’s a pandemic. You probaby shouldn’t be touching a stranger.” His soft blue eyes gave me a good once over. Satisfied I was okay, he stepped away without another word.

Things are tough in the world we inhabit. There is a ton of racial tension in the United States and a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. People are being asked to keep their distance, to look out for themselves. We are being conditioned to make snap judgments based on age, race, nationality, perceived political persuasions.

Yet, the Bible teaches that we are to be our brother’s keepers. How? “Be kind to one another… ” (Ephesians 4:32a)

We can be kind anywhere. On an early morning in a damp wood, an elderly white guy chose to be kind to a complete stranger, a black woman in a ditch. And very few words were said.

I don’t know whether he was a Christ follower. I do know that his presence and subsequent kindness was God’s gift to me in that moment. Normally, I am alone on the trail at that hour.

Each of us is a potential instrument of God’s lovingkindness at any moment. If we would open our hearts, chances are there’s an opportunity waiting for us to show some small kindness to a fellow human being; maybe a simple hand up to someone who has fallen down.

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