I can identify—and have myself experienced—at least five distinct outcomes from serving others. These are five transactions that take place every time you show kindness to someone else. These actions are the consequences of your actions. They are. . .
1) You bless the recipient. The one who receives the kindness is so grateful for what you have done. Your act of kindness often brings a smile, happiness, and laughter. They experience a glow that remains after you leave. They did not expect anyone to care enough to do this for them—for free!
Margaret was one of the 25 million senior citizens who are living in poverty. She was facing eviction from her trailer home—unless she trimmed her bushes, weeded, and cleaned up the debris in her yard. But she was in poor health, living on a meager monthly income, and was relationally isolated like many people her age—forgotten by just about everyone. After hearing her story, a nearby church was contacted by the local Love, INC. The next weekend, volunteers trimmed her bushes, weeded her flower beds, and cleaned up her yard. Here’s some of what she said in a thank-you note:
“Without your help, generosity, and charity, I don’t know what I would have done. One couple said they would return at a later time to plant grass seed an offered to step by once a year to do any ongoing upkeep on the yard. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to everyone who has helped me with this situation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and God bless you all.”
2) Even on those rare occasions when the recipient does not sow gratitude, remember that you also bless yourself when you show kindness to others. You experience a deep sense of satisfaction and a feeling of fulfillment. I’ve heard people say they felt “like a million bucks” after serving someone who couldn’t pay them back—and this is in spite of the cost of their time, money, and effort. This is a biblical principle: Proverbs 11:25 says, He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. And Proverbs 14:21 agrees: Blessed is he who is kind to the needy. It is you who receive the blessing.
But there is also a physiological cause for this wonderful feeling. A university study recently investigated why humans would be motivated to display acts of generosity—since it seems illogical to willingly sacrifice your resources for others. MRI scans revealed that an area of the brain linked to generosity triggered a response in another part of the brain related to happiness. Our happiness levels increase after acts of generosity. The study encouraged people not to overlook the benefits of “spending” on others, because “giving makes us happy.”
3) There’s more: you please God when you show kindness. It puts a smile on his face! Throughout the scriptures we see God honoring servanthood, and Christ exemplifying it. For instance, Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. . . For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45). We are never more like Christ than when we are serving others. Matthew 25 presents an interesting picture of God when the master replies, “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . .Come and share your master’s happiness!” (25:21, 23) Notice that God honors his faithful servant, and invites him to come share his own happiness. God loves it when you love on others.
4) Here’s one that is less visible but no less true: When we show kindness to others, we change the atmosphere around us. This is true wherever you are: at home, at work, in school, in the neighborhood, or in your city. You know what it feels like to be in a place where there is division, bad feelings, blame, harsh words, and so on. In contrast, you know what it feels like when people around you are polite, happy to see you, complimentary, supportive, eager to help, and so on. One person, one act at a time, can “infect” others; and their combined acts of kindness can change the atmosphere over time.
I was intrigued recently by a Readers Digest list of the ten “Nicest Places in America.” Out of the towns that made the final cut, not one of them was there because of spectacular scenery, strategic location, or a bustling economy. None of them are well-known places; I had only heard the name of one of the ten. What set these towns apart from other towns? It is small and large numbers of people doing small and large acts of kindness—over and over and over again. People choose to live in these places because it feels like family; they care about people, and they know people care about them.
5) Finally, and this may be the hardest to grasp, but also the most important: our acts of service affect the future. That’s right—what we do (or don’t do) today has an impact on what happens tomorrow, next year, and the next century. In the history of America, explorers set out to discover new places. Pioneers followed them as the first to claim the land. And then, settlers came later to stay. When someone shows the way, it is easier for everyone else to follow.
An easy example of this comes from a recent news story that went viral. At a McDonald’s in Scottsburg, Indiana, the staff and customers kept a chain of good deeds going for more than 3 hours. On Father’s Day, a regular customer saw a man with four children behind her in the drive-through line. She paid for their order, the dad paid for the car following him, they did the same for the next vehicle, and so on. All total, 167 drivers “paid it forward” that night—and the streak only stopped when the store closed for the night. Think about that amazing sequence: the first customer was setting out on her own, but eventually—as the employees told the customers what was happening—it was easier to join because so many had gone before them. There was a feeling that “if they can do it, so can I.” And they did.
Five fantastic results—each one a consequence of your next act of service in your community. When you think you are too busy or too tired or it’s not going to matter anyway, just remember: IT’S WORTH IT. . . TO EVERYONE.