In a video post on social media that I viewed the other day, three women were brutally fighting in a grocery store. By fighting, I mean hair-pulling, fisticuffs, and rolling around on the floor grappling, screaming, and swearing.
The cause of this fight? The last remaining package of toilet paper on the otherwise empty shelf. I wasn’t particularly surprised by this outburst as civility has been absent from our land for quite some time. I also recognize that toilet paper is an essential item. But this type of public behavior? And then, an unexpected surprise.
I was in the supermarket picking up some needed supplies. I was wearing my clerical collar and a man in a mask spoke to me as though he knew me. I said, “I’m sorry but with the mask, I don’t recognize you.”
He replied, “I’m the neighbor of one of your parishioners.” He told who the church member was and where we had met and then I remembered and even recognized his voice. We talked for a few minutes and I lamented that I had been to every drug store in the area and had even checked with Amazon, that repository of all things, but, alas, masks and gloves were nowhere to be found. We soon parted ways and I went to check out.
I had loaded the groceries and was returning to the car after depositing my cart in the space provided when a man in a surgical mask was walking directly toward me. I stepped out of his way and he moved to intercept me. Curious now, I nodded at him.
He stopped in front of me and said, “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation in the store about the shortage of masks.” He then handed me a mask and said, “I have a few extras and I’d like to give you this one. You may need it.” I truly was shocked.
We talked a bit and he asked what church I served and where. I shared that information and then he told me he was on the staff of Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church in East Point, Ga. I thanked him but soon wished I had gotten his name so I could thank him more formally.
I thought about that act of kindness all day long. I even shared with my wife that evening and my secretary the next morning. In a crisis where there are no masks, someone gave me his mask. To a stranger.
I suspect that such acts are more common than we realize. There’s one lady that I know who visits a shut-in during this crisis to bring the mail, and other necessities, to her. There are people who are doing the shopping for elderly and vulnerable people. I know a man that took another man, unable to drive, to a doctor’s appointment an hour away, waited for him, and brought him home.
In our church, a lady contacted me about the possibility of starting a food pantry and another married couple is planning on preparing 20-30 meals at a time. The meals can be frozen and delivered to housebound people who need them.
Another young lady made ten surgical masks for the clergy and a nurse offered to provide an M95 mask if one of us has to go into a hospital, hospice, or nursing home to administer Last Rites. There’s one person in our congregation who is praying about giving her stimulus check to someone in need.
A minister friend and his wife plant a garden every year. They serve a small church and the canned produce from the garden literally gets them through the winter months. It has been this way for many years.
The man they usually pay to till and plow the garden died suddenly. They were at a loss as to who to get to plow the garden. One morning, my clergy friend left his home office and stepped outside to discover that his garden had been plowed. He still doesn’t know who came by and did it.
I heard on talk radio recently about a landlord who has suspended the rent in his apartments for all his tenants for three months. Suspended, not just delayed. Most landlords cannot do this but, apparently, this man could afford to offer this to his renters.
An official from the bank with which our church does business, called us a few weeks ago and said that we weren’t to worry if our giving was down and paying the mortgage became a problem. They would work with us. I hope we don’t have to accept that offer but it was a kindness that gave a bit of emotional relief.
In the New Testament book of Ephesians, St. Paul writes to the Christians who made up the church in Ephesus (vs. 4:32) and admonished them, “Be kind to one another …” In a confused, chaotic, world in crisis, while scoundrels, scammers, and con artists abound, we are also seeing people being kind to one another.
There is much that we can find wrong about the world and about our nation, especially if we look for it. But there is some good, too. Actually there is a lot of good because there are a lot of good people.
Some people are scheming and selfish but there are also those who are caring, concerned, selfless, and — yes — kind. If we take the time to look around, we will see more kind people doing good things. Perhaps we also will turn out to be among the kind people.
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the crisis, the church is live streaming at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays at http://www.facebook.com/cctksharpsburg/ He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]