By: David Stewart
Have you ever watched the movie Patch Adams? It is based on a true story and if I am honest, it is one of my all-time favorites. In one scene Patch is trying to prove to his friends how humor can have a direct impact on human behavior. Patch and a few friends are standing outside on a busy sidewalk and Patch climbs a tree and hangs upside down in front of a passing pedestrian, just to see if she responds. The older lady walks by seeming like she is ignoring the crazy act, but Patch instructs his friends to just “wait for it.” After about ten steps past Patch and his friends the lady turns to look at him, Patch points and smiles at her, and the lady just waves her hand and laughs. I write all this to describe a point in my day that was like that event. I write all that to say I agree with Patch, humor or kindness can change human behaviors.
I engage with the public a lot daily, and everyday I see some of the same faces. Some people are in a hurry, some are sightseeing, some are overly excited and happy. I also see a lot of people who are homeless, some are visibly troubled, some are disappointed, and some are just angry. There is one elderly Chinese lady who walks by me every day, usually not happy with me or my co-workers because of our choices to help the homeless. Everyday for about three months she would walk by and as I spoke, she would randomly yell at me, say some truly angry comment, or just ignore my greeting altogether. Then one day I just decided I would make it a point to extend kindness to her in a very deliberate way. The Bible encourages us to love everyone, even our enemies. I never considered her my enemy, but time had proved she was not my friend. There was one scripture that came to my mind that day and I wanted to test to see how true it was. The Bible says:
“Do the riches of his extraordinary kindness make you take him for granted and despise him? Haven’t you experienced how kind and understanding he has been to you? Do not mistake his tolerance for acceptance. Do you realize that all the wealth of his extravagant kindness[c] is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance?” Romans 2:4 (The Passion Translation)
This basically says that the goodness of God can lead people to repentance, but does it?
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I embarked on what would become a six-month period of becoming the goodness of God. I told all my co-workers, in case they saw her, to just be overly kind to her. She was not homeless, she had her own place, I had no details of her life, but my experiment did not call for any. If Patch Adams proved that humor could change human behavior, I wanted to see if kindness could as well. For six months it was much of the same, I would greet her, compliment her and I would often get a yell, a rude comment back or just her ignoring me and my attempts. The Bible did not mention how long it would take for this kindness to have effect but none the less I was committed. Then about a month ago I saw a change in her as she passed me by. I spoke and complimented her, and I saw her smile! She said nothing, but it was a definite smile. A week went by and my co workers started to notice the smile as well. There were no more rude comments and after a few more days of greeting her she started to respond with words like, “IM OK”. To most people that would be a simple reply, but to me regarding my new friend, this was massive breakthrough.
Today I was outside with one of my co-workers, and the lady was coming our way. My co-worker asked how she was, and she responded with, “IM SAFE.” He looked and me and I look at him. We were both shocked at her response, we had never heard that one. We continued talking with her and brought the name JESUS up, not intending to but that is where the conversation went. It went something like, “Take care and know Jesus loves you.” Her response back was this,” He can’t, I’m not a Christian, I have been a Buddhist for seven years, plus I am gay.” My friend and I told her, “That is Ok, Jesus still loves YOU! You may not realize it yet, but he loves you very much!” Her response back was, “Are you sure?” We told her we were very sure of that, and that she was too sweet for Jesus NOT to love her or us. She smiled at us, waved her hand bye, and said,” Oh, You guys.” My friend looked at me and said that made his whole week……it made my whole year!
One year ago, this woman was angry, bitter, and very unapproachable it seemed. Today, the woman was different because of a choice made to look past that and show her kindness. God loves us while we were sinners and while we are in sin. We may not always know that, but God already settled that when he sent Jesus to die. As believers we may not always show Christ well to others, but we should always be able to be kind. Can me extending kindness to the lady lead her to a newfound faith? Can the goodness of God truly lead people to repentance? I believe it can, I believe that kindness and love toward others can affect human behavior. I also believe that bringing the name of Jesus to the conversations can change human lives! I am excited to see where my new friendship with the lady continues to go. I encourage you to find your own Patch Adams test with someone and “Wait for it” even if it takes a year to get a result.
Be Blessed, encouraged, and strengthened in the Lord!