Clearly this wasn't an exhaustive list. Clearly there are people that have been left out. Those that have moved in and out of my life leaving traces of change in their wake. Those that I didn't even actually know.
When I was living in BG, before I fell in love with Jesus, I would wander liquor stores and Kroger buying razors and alcohol just trying to get up the courage to stop inconveniencing those around me by being alive. I would screw up the courage and I would walk into the store. Every time, every single time I was stopped. By different strangers, different people that I didn't know from anyone would come straight up to me and say something. Some would just ask me about my purse, they thought it was cute. But some would come up and out of nowhere just ask me how I was. I would of course say fine, no need to tell this stranger that I was falling apart and was planning to slit my wrists that night. But on these particular days the stranger wouldn't say ok and walk away. They would say, are you really ok? Are you really? We would talk for a moment while I panicked and wondered how to escape this conversation. But they would continue and say something encouraging, or tell me they were going to pray for me.
I would scoff, pray? There is no God who exactly are you going to be praying to? Then I would walk away, bolstered by the rage I was nurturing inside and numb myself enough to get through another night.
Because no matter how angry I was at the intrusion of these strangers it was always enough of a lance to my wound to keep me alive one more day. These brave strangers that had no idea who I was or maybe even what impact they were making saved my life. They saw me and made me feel seen. That was all I really wanted, was to be seen. I felt invisible for so long that to be seen was so painful, but I longed for it deeply.
These strangers and what their obedience to the small things that God asked them to do saved my life. They are the reason that I know that small kindnesses are never ever wasted. Because small kindnesses saved my life.
For almost a year now I've had the joy of leading Washington Project at my church. Every Sunday during one or both of our services we go out into the community and do something or give something to people. We use our Washington's, our quarters and our dollars, and we serve in some tangible way. We've given away Easter Baskets, gas cards, movie cards, water, coffee, papers and so much more. We've raked leaves, cleaned windows, washed cars, landscaped, played games at a nursing home and more. This Sunday we're throwing a festival for some kids at a lower income housing apartment complex in town. We're going to play and have fun with them, give them cotton candy, popcorn, school supplies and backpacks. It will be a blast.
But one of the reasons I love Washington Project so much is because I know that we are touching people that feel invisible sometimes. We washed a car for a woman that almost burst into tears. She articulated that she felt so unnoticed by people and by God as she went about her life and that we were confirming for her that it wasn't true, that God did notice her. It may not show up every week like that, because people might not tell us (I never once told these strangers about the impact they made on me, not once). But every week we're going into the community and we're seeing people. We're loving them in tangible ways and letting them know that God loves them and cares about even their smallest worries.
Sometimes it might just be a paper that we give away, sometimes it can be just a bottle of water. But sometimes, maybe we give water to someone that feels like I did so many years ago in Kroger. Maybe they were going to kill themselves, or hurt someone else, or maybe they were walking around in a kind of living death like I was and we helped show them a God that wants them to wake up to the life He longs for them to have. It's hard to tell. But I believe it's happening because of the Grace of God.
So even though I can't name these women and men that would approach me when I was hanging off the edge of a very high cliff they have absolutely made me who I am at 30 because they helped me live to see the day that I would be 30.
It's been pretty amazing looking back and writing about the people that have shaped and influenced my life. It's made me want to be those people to others. It's motivated me to become more disciplined and intentional about the things I do and how I live my life. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Before I go, I want to encourage those of you still with me to do what these strangers did for me years ago. Listen for the prompting of God and encourage people. See people and show them kindnesses large and small. It may feel a little awkward, a little silly, but you never know when your small kindnesses are just words or when it may very well save someones life. Be gracious and merciful, because we all need grace and mercy ourselves don't we?