Have you ever met someone who exuded kindness like the smell of a cherry pie in an open window on a summer day? This is a person whose eyes catch you, twinkle, and without words, bid you a good day. The kind of person who holds out his hand to help you down from a bus, or pulls out a chair for you, or offers to carry your suitcase even though he has one of his own. The kind of person who talks little about himself or herself but offers to listen, without judgement, to whatever is on your mind, offering a smile and encouraging word. As I’ve said before, kindness is all that really matters, and meeting a truly kind person can alter your attitude, your day, even your life. How often do you meet such a person? Once a day? Once a month? Once in a lifetime?
Wouldn’t it be nice to meet someone like that in every encounter you have?
Wouldn’t it be nice to be that someone to others?
What would that world look like?
Everything about my recent trip to the Holy Land was special, meaningful, and life-changing. It wasn’t my first visit, but I ended both trips feeling the same way–overwhelmed by all that I saw and learned; sad to have to say goodbye to such wonderful places, experiences, and people; and determined to use the trip as a stepping stone to become a better person.
There’s something about spending ten days with a group of absolute strangers, in a mystical land, that automatically causes one to act like a better person, to show the best side of himself or herself. I like to think that it really allows us to show our true selves. Why hide your real self from a group of people you may never seen again? Not to mention, in a place like the Holy Land, where emotions are always bubbling to the surface, and it’s easy to become vulnerable, to open up in a way you’ve never done before, to shed your mask and let others see the person you are or hope to be. When standing on the shores of Galilee, how can you not open your heart and mind like the Apostles did when Jesus said, “Follow me” and become the person He created you to be?
Though my sister-in-law and I have been family for the past twenty years, we learned things about each other and our loved ones that we never knew. We opened up to each other like we have never done, and we bonded in a way that took me by surprise. Several times in the past week, I’ve smiled and swallowed the lump in my throat when reading a text from Lisa saying, “I miss you.” We allowed each other to see and be seen like never before, and I believe we love each other more because of that.
Every day, when we left the bus to explore another site, Gerard stood outside the door and offered his hand to each person. Most of us probably didn’t need his help, but he offered it just the same. And it wasn’t only his hand that led us down the large step and onto the sidewalk; it was his smile, his greeting, his genuine kindness. Even though we battled daily with Gerard and his wife, Jen, for our favorite seat (for the record, we shared pretty well, about 50-50), we talked and joked and laughed, and shared many meals together with them and their son, Ben. We learned so much about about each other, but the thing that will always stick out in my mind the most is that simple gesture of helping us all exit the bus.
Will, a twenty-four-year-old from Florida, accompanied his Aunt Maria to the Holy Land so that she didn’t have to travel alone. From the moment Will smiled and introduced himself, I felt his kindness. It was just something palpable, something that couldn’t go unnoticed, like the aroma of that cherry pie on the windowsill. The more we talked, the more I knew, beyond doubt, that Will was special, a man with a kind heart. Perhaps there are things he kept hidden, a dark past, a troubled youth, but I think it was obvious to everyone on the trip, that Will possessed a kind soul. I’m not sure there is anything more beautiful that can be said about a person.
Joan, oh Joan, your wit kept us all on our toes! After long days of walking, listening, praying, and marveling at the world around us, Joan entertained us with a never-ending parade of jokes. The sparkle in her eyes as she delivered each punchline had us cheering and begging for more. While there were some groans and shaking of heads, we all looked forward to the next one. But here’s what I figured out. It wasn’t about the jokes. It wasn’t about lightening our emotional loads at the end of the day. It was about Joan, her smile, her twinkling eyes, and her enthusiasm. Oh, if only we all had a Joan around every evening to make us laugh and smile at the end of a long, tiring, and emotional day!
And then there was Ben, a college freshman traveling with his parents, Gerard and Jen. This young man beamed when he talked about the organization he started to lead mission trips to Uganda. He lives every day of his life searching for ways to help others. He has a heart so full of love and exuberance, you can’t help but soak in the kindness he passes around to everyone he meets. Every day, Ben would approach the group to share evening plans to go out and explore the city. His enthusiasm was contagious!
I could go on and on. There was sweet Toni, always so appreciative of the pictures that I shared. There were sisters, Lauren and Alicia, with their bright smiles and invitations to stay in touch and visit them. There was Michelle, Jami, and May Ann, and Joe, Betty, Father Jhon, and our leader, Jan, just a few among a number of other wonderful people I now call friends. There were so many who made our trip memorable and special, just as I experienced when Ken and I traveled to the Holy Land three years ago. Perhaps there’s something about treading on holy ground, walking in the footsteps of Jesus, Peter, and Paul, and standing on the same ground as Mary, Joseph, Elijah, and Abraham. Maybe the power of the Holy Spirit is so strong there that it overwhelms one’s soul and prevents one from being anything but kind. Or maybe hearing the stories of healing and conversion along with reliving the passion, death, and resurrection just create the perfect environment, one in which everyone naturally becomes the best and kindest version of themselves.
I like to believe that each one of us has returned home with a renewed spirit, a humbled heart, and the desire to reach out to everyone we know with the kindness we experienced on the Sea of Galilee, the streets of Jerusalem, and the hill country of Judea. I pray that we remember the words we heard on the Mount of Beatitudes and go forth as the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers. Let us comfort and console, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and know that we are truly blessed.
And may we strive every day to just be kind. If everyone were to make that one little thing the cornerstone of all we do, imagine what a wonderful world it would be.
Join me to celebrate the release of my newest novel, The Devil’s Fortune. Let me know if you can be there on Sunday, March 24, 2019.
What I was writing about a year ago this week: In the Desert
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).