Around this time last year, my son Alex, his then-fiancee Michelle and I were having a discussion about the importance of kindness, and how you never know the effect it may have. I began telling them about a time...
...when I was a kid, there was an art supply store in the town where we lived. Most days after school you could find me there. Arts and crafts were my hiding place. The shop was owned and operated by a British couple who were very amiable, especially the wife.
One day while I was buying some drawing pencils and a paperback book on how to draw the human figure, she said, smiling, "You're in here all the time. You must be an artist." Feeling both startled and pleased, I answered, "Yes, um, I mean, I want to be." After that, she seemed to take particular interest in me. She never minded whether I bought anything or not, and always patiently answered any questions I had.
I'll never forget the time she gave me a box of modeling clay, saying, "Why don't you see what you can do with this, and I'll display it in my shop window." I sculpted a child swinging on a tree limb. I'm sure it was awful. But oh the joy of walking past that window and seeing my handiwork in all of its plasticine glory :)
That dear woman could not know just how healing were the seeds of kindness she sowed in the heart of an anxious, clumsy, angry adolescent. I wonder if she had any idea where her encouragement might lead.
As I finished my anecdote, I noticed Michelle's face became quite serious. "Where was this shop?" she asked. I told her the town. "What was the shop's name?" I told her. "Those people were my grandparents! They had emigrated here from England and opened an art store." Amazing. I as a twelve-year-old met the grandmother of my future son's future wife! I suppose if we had all lived in the same neighborhood where everyone knew each other, it wouldn't have been such a surprise. But we hadn't.
At their wedding, we were able to recounte this memory with my daughter-in-law's father and his siblings. Michelle's grandmother is still alive, but her memory has given way to Alzheimer's. Her adult children were so happy to hear this story. "Yes, that was our mother," Michelle's aunt cried. "She was always so caring and kind to everyone." God is good.