My wife Susan and I have a disgusting habit.
Every morning we go for an exercise-paced walk (that's not the disgusting part... we actually really enjoy the time together). The disgusting part is that we bring two plastic grocery bags with us and pick up trash along our route through the neighborhood. There's fast food trash and beer cans and lots of cigarette butts (in our neighborhood Marlboro Gold's are by far the favored brand that people throw out of their car windows).
We do this because it needs to be done.
We do this because it is within our reach to do it.
We do this because we would literally have to walk right by the same trash every day if we didn't.
It's nothing huge. We just pick up some trash along our way. But it's some good we can do for our neighbors and our neighborhood.
What we didn't realize is that people were noticing. We became familiar faces to people as we walked along picking up the trash along the way. People started stopping their cars and thanking us. People walking their dogs or jogging would stop and talk with us. We were told that we had sparked several conversations between neighbors about doing good just for the sake of blessing the community. We now see others carrying bags on their walks, too. Believe it or not, because of this small act of goodness, we have even had substantial faith conversations with people about what we are doing and why.
Neighbors meeting neighbors because of trash being picked up? Neighbors talking with neighbors about blessing the community? Faith conversation? All because we pick up some trash along the way? Yep. We didn't mean to. But God did.
This is the practice of doing good. You just never know. Picking up trash is still disgusting, but God is using it.
What good can you do along your way today?
I have a pastor friend in Chicago that Dwelling 1:14 has been working with. He has been trying to reach out in friendship to a neighbor. The neighbor knows he's a pastor and wants nothing to do with him. The neighbor doesn't want religion and he figures that's what the pastor-neighbor is really after.
Until one day the neighbor unexpectedly shows up at the pastor's door. "Can we talk?" "Sure. Come in." The neighbor then proceeds to tell the pastor about what happened the night before at a National Honor Society induction ceremony he had attended. At the ceremony, he heard a speech by a young lady who was being inducted into the NHS. It was a special occasion because this young lady is autistic. However, in spite of her challenges she had achieved this honor and had been invited to give the speech telling a little of her story.
As it turned out, a good deal of her story revolved around Ben, the pastor's son, who also attended the young lady's high school. Ben was a senior. He is a big football player. A lineman. But every day Ben had made sure he came up to this autistic young lady, looked her in the eye, smiled, and told her good morning.
A simple act of goodness.
Well within his reach on a daily basis.
He walked by the young lady every day anyway.
What Ben couldn't have realized was the hope his simple act of goodness inspired in this young lady. You see, every day, Ben's one act of kindness came in opposition to a whole load of unkind acts and insults that made life at the high school very, very hard for this young autistic lady. In her speech, she said she often struggled in the morning just to summon up enough courage to face another day of school. But because of Ben and his simple acts of goodness, she would take courage and head to school for another day of classes. And tonight she wanted to thank Ben and let him know what a big difference his goodness had made to her.
There wasn't a dry eye in the place. And the neighbor wanted to come to the pastor-neighbor and let him know.
Somehow, this simple act of daily goodness shown to an autistic young lady not only blessed the young lady but slipped past this man's shield he had built against religion. There was no baptism that Saturday morning in the pastor's home, but there was a new opportunity for conversation and friendship between two neighbors.
All this because a young man took up the practice of doing good. You just never know. Smiling and saying good morning to someone who really needs it is simple, but God was using it.
What good can you do along your way today?
Proverbs 3:27 says, "Do not withhold good when it is in your power to act."
Because our simple acts of goodness are seed.
God sprouts redemptive stuff from our simple seed of goodness.
Who could guess how far and deep a simple act of goodness could go. Certainly not us. But certainly God.
We can't know what a simple act of goodness might be used by God to redeem. But we can put that goodness into play and see what God does.
You just never know.
So along the way today, what good can you do? The simple kind. The kind that is within our reach. The kind that is along the way you are already going. Cast the seed. Watch for God.
This is the practice of doing good.