“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things… If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22–23, 25 (Bearing Fruit Series)
One of our first Halloweens in Ypsilanti, we encountered disappointment on an epic scale — or at least, our then 6-year-old daughter believed so. That Halloween, Michaela was tired of competing with her baby sister for attention in the household. But Halloween was going to be all about Michaela, because babies don’t care much about costumes or candy. So Michaela was excited to be getting dressed up and hitting the neighborhood for some treats. And then, the day before Halloween, she spiked a fever and developed a sore throat. A quick trip to the doctor revealed she had strep. There was no way we were taking her out door-to-door for candy when she was sick and contagious. She was devastated. She wasn’t going to get any candy, a tragedy of epic proportions for a six-year-old. She couldn’t even help hand the candy out. I can still see in my mind my little girl standing in the front window of the parsonage watching the steady stream of trick-or-treaters coming to our door.
I was disappointed, too. I wanted so badly for her to have as many good experiences as possible in our new home. I posted on social media about that disappointment and within a couple of minutes, on Halloween night, there was a knock on our door. It was our neighbor from across the street. He and his wife had read about Michaela not being able to trick or treat, and decided to make up a big bag of candy for her and brought it over. I don’t have to tell you it brought this dad to tears. Some other kids, who saw our daughter watching sadly from the window, came back at the end of the evening to share some of their candy with her.
Whenever I think about what kindness is, that is what I think about. Those neighbors didn’t have to do that; those kids didn’t have to share. Everyone could have simply gone on with their day. But that is the spiritual fruit of kindness: the propensity to consider other people, their needs, and your ability to fill those needs — not because you have to, but because you want to, because the love in you can’t help but overflow.
An act of kindness can be transformative. When our neighbors were kind to our daughter on that Halloween, the neighborhood transformed for me. It changed from simply being the place we lived to being OUR neighborhood. We felt welcomed. We felt connected. We felt like we belonged. We felt like we were home.
As fruits of the Spirit go, kindness is a big one. It can take a while to develop. Human beings tend towards self-centeredness. I don’t mean that in the negative sense, necessarily; it’s natural to care for yourself, and we should. After all, we cannot love our neighbors as we love ourselves if we don’t first love ourselves. The trick is, once we have learned to love ourselves, to turn that love outward to others as kindness. And the “treat” (see what I did there!) is witnessing the transformation a little kindness can bring into a life.
With kind regards,