Doing something nice for someone with no expectation of reward is nothing new, but every so often the idea is pulled out and given a new coat of paint. When I was a kid, these actions were called “good deeds,” and every Boy Scout was expected to do one every day. A few years ago, after a media makeover, good deeds became “random acts of kindness.” Now, thanks to the latest episode of NCIS, they may become known as “hit-and-runs.”
Episode 13 focused on Abby Schiuto, everybody’s favorite zany genius
who runs the NCIS lab. Her current case caused her to flash back on her “first” case, a time in her childhood when she tried to solve a mystery. Just like the adult Abby, she became emotionally involved with the people she met and took their problems as her own. Her inability to solve their problems, and her inability to resolve her current case in a happily-ever-after manner, led her to question her value as a person. As always, Gibbs came to the rescue:
Abby: I’m trying to figure out a way to…be okay with not being enough.
Gibbs: Enough what?
Abby: Enough good.
Gibbs: Well, then you’re not counting the hit-and-runs.
Abby: The what?
Gibbs: The good kind. You do something good now, you’re not always around to see the difference it makes later.
At that point, he reminded her of the first time they met. They ate Chinese food, and after she read her fortune, she gave it to him. Then Gibbs pulled a tiny, folded slip of paper out of his wallet and handed it to her. It was the fortune, and it read “Today’s new friend is tomorrow’s family.”
Abby was lucky enough to get to see what one of her hit-and-runs meant to someone. I had a similar experience at AWANA last week. AWANA is a program offered by some churches that teaches kids about the Bible and about how special they are to God in a fun setting of games, songs, crafts and snacks. I’m a volunteer listener, so once a week I sit, usually on a floor that is not too kind to aging bones, and help a small group of kids memorize Scripture verses, the books of the Bible and other related information. The kids are full of energy and often seem more focused on getting another “jewel” for their vest than actually learning anything. It’s enough to make a person wonder, along with Abby, if we’re really making a difference. But sometimes we get a glimpse of something like Abby’s fortune that motivates us to keep going.
The size of our AWANA groups varies from week to week, depending on how many adults and how many kids are present. A couple of weeks ago, we had plenty of listeners, so I only held two cards as we waited for game time to end. One of the other leaders approached me and looked at my cards.
“Do you have ‘Jim’? she said.
“Let me have your other card. He’s having a bad night – already been in trouble twice. He needs some one-on-one time tonight.”
I sighed. Some evenings are more challenging than others. The kids came tumbling in the door, sweaty and red-faced from racing around in a semi-organized fashion on the playground. Some scrambled into something resembling a line in front of the water fountain, and others hovered around their favorite listeners, standing on tip-toe to get a peek at the cards they were holding.
“Do you have me?” They asked first one and then the next, and generally seemed pleased to find their name, regardless of who had it. Jim, on the other hand, wasn’t pleased about anything.
“Come on, Jim. I have you tonight. Do you want to sit on the steps or in a chair?”
He slouched down the aisle and flopped down on the steps without replying. I sat down beside and breathed a silent prayer for help.
“Are you having a bad day?”
“Do you want to tell me about it?”
He did. Earlier in the day he and some friends were playing a game. Jim was the first one “out,” and his best friend made fun of him for the rest of the day.
“That doesn’t feel good, does it?”
“Did any of the verses you’ve learned help?”
“No.” Third graders are masters of the mono-syllabic answer.
“Do you remember John 3:16?”
“No.” At least he was consistent.
“Get your Bible and let’s read it.”
He found it with just a little help, and he read the familiar verse: For God so loved the world… I wouldn’t say he looked happy, but I thought I saw a crack in his protective armor.
“Now read it again,” I said. “But this time substitute your name for world.”
He did, and this time there was a noticeable lift in his attitude and body language.
“That’s pretty special, isn’t it?”
“God loves you so much that he sent Jesus. He must think you’re pretty special. I think you’re special, too.”
“Thanks,” he said ducking his head in embarrassment.
“Are you ready to work on your verses?”
He was, and he finished two sections before it was time to move on to song time. I breathed another prayer, this time of thanks, and moved on to my next group.
Last week I had Jim in my group again. I could tell by the look on his face that he was having a better day.
“Hey, you’re that lady that gave me that verse, aren’t you.”
“Yes, I am. Did it help?”
“Yeah, but Bob still picks on me sometimes.”
I had two in my group that night, and I alternated my attention between Jane who was learning the books of the New Testament and Jim who was learning some new verses. At one point, I glanced at him and saw that he had his Bible open on his lap. I saw what looked like a lot of scribbling in the middle of one of the pages. Jim, what have you done now? I thought. He must have sensed me looking his way, because he turned toward me and pointed at the scribbles.
“Look,” he said. “I underlined that verse, and I marked out “world” and wrote my name.”
He sat for a minute gazing at the page, and I was grateful to see what had come from what to me was a way to get a cranky kid to focus for a few minutes. Maybe he’ll forget by next week, or maybe through the years he’ll go back to that scribbled page again and again and remember the personal message it holds.
It made me think about the passage where Paul addresses the argument over whose ministry is the most important.
So neither the one who plants counts for anything, nor the one who waters, but God who causes the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:7
It’s a special privilege to be able to plant or water seeds, but it’s even more special when you get a glimpse of how God uses those hit-and-runs to cause growth.