I got a letter the other day from an unexpected source. The return address indicated that it was from a gentleman that I know from church. K is a retired real estate man as I recall. In my experience, unsolicited correspondence of this sort tends to generally be limited to fundraising. So imagine my surprise when I read the first paragraph.
"For the past several years, rather than giving up something for Lent, I have instead given special time to thoughts and prayers for special people."
My day is Friday the 20th.
"[I] will pause to thank God for you. I will ask that he make his presence known to you in all you do and to bless your life and, through you, the lives of others. I'll be praying about your family and all those you love, about all the things that keep you busy, and about your health. I'll be expressing particular thanks for your talent as a writer and the education you received at Hendrix and for your long membership in the church I love. Finally, I'll thank him for you friendship and the privilege I have to know you."
To say that I was stunned is to to understate the case considerably. In the first place, I don't think that I've had a conversation of any substance with this gentleman in 2-3 years. Secondly, while God knows I could use it, I don't exactly consider myself a fit subject for such intervention.
My initial thought is that K had obviously reached the bottom of the barrel of available candidates for intercessory prayer after all of these years. After all, as I said, I haven't had many dealings with K in some time.
But I was mainly struck by what a profound kindness out of the blue the letter represented. To know that someone thought about me and was thankful of it is profoundly humbling. And while I am not superstitious in the slightest I confess that it is comforting to know that someone will be praying on my behalf next Friday.
We live in a brutal world filled seemingly to the brim with fear and hatred. And that's just the Arkansas legislature. It is all to easy to forget that people are capable of "random acts of kindness" as the saying goes.
Ash Wednesday is at hand. It is the first day of the penitential season of Lent. It is the day that we remember that we were formed from dust. And that unto dust we will return.
I will also remember that people can be capable of indescribable grace and kindness even to those that are completely undeserving of same. Such as myself.
And I will try to pay it forward if I can.