Coming Alive Through Small Acts of Kindness
My friend Matt Gunter, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, recently posted the story below on his Facebook page. He had received the story from a friend of his, and now it's my turn to share it with you. Its message is too beautiful not to be shared. I hope you agree, and will, in turn, share it with others.
Howard Thurman sat on a train platform in his hometown of Daytona, Florida in 1915, crying his heart out. His family had raised enough money to send him to school, but he didn't have enough money to pay special shipping for his borrowed steamer trunk, which the ticket agent had just told him was too shabby and fragile to transport as regular baggage.
There were no schools for black children like Howard beyond 7th grade in Daytona, and to be unable to go to Florida Baptist Academy in Jacksonville would be the end of this brilliant young man's dreams. "Presently I opened my eyes and saw before me a large pair of work shoes. My eyes crawled upward until I saw the man's face. He was a black man, dressed in overalls and a denim cap. As he looked down at me, he rolled a cigarette and lit it.
Then he said, "Boy, what in hell are you crying about?"
And I told him.
"If you're trying to get out of this damn town to get an education, the least I can try to do is help you. Come with me," he said.
He took me around to the agent and asked: "How much does it take to send this boy's trunk to Jacksonville?"
Then he took out his rawhide money bag and counted the money out. When the agent handed him the receipt, he handed it to me. Then, without a word, he turned and disappeared down the railroad track. I never saw him again."
Thurman got to Jacksonville. His battered old steamer trunk got there too. He grew up to be "an influential African American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He was Dean of Chapel at Howard University and Boston University for more than two decades, wrote 21 books, and in 1944 helped found a multicultural church. Thurman, along with Mordecai Johnson and Vernon Johns, was considered one of the three greatest African-American preachers in the early 20th-century." (Wikipedia)
He was very close friends with an Atlanta preacher named Martin Luther King and a he became a lifelong friend and mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr. One of his most well-known quotes about the world needing more people who have come alive appears with his photo in the box at the top of this column.
We cannot know how much influence even the smallest act of kindness can have. Very few people will ever be a Howard Thurman. Even fewer will ever be a Martin Luther King, Jr. - but every single one of us, everyone, can be that man at the train station.
So what small act of kindness might we do for another today, something that just might help us and/or them to come alive?
The story of what happened to Howard Thurman at the train station is told by him in, With Head and Heart, the Autobiography of Howard Thurman.
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