Random acts of kindness

Recently, I heard the relative of a person taken hostage by Hamas in Gaza say that many Israelis she knows “have lost faith that good will triumph over evil.” My heart tore in pieces for that woman because, as a chaplain, I’ve seen that, sadly, she may be right. Good doesn’t always triumph over evil — not in the way we expect it to.

Deuteronomy 20:4 promises that our Lord goes with us to fight against our enemy to ensure victory. If that’s so, to whom does He grant victory? Which side?

Luke 1:37 writes that “nothing will be impossible with God.” Why then, when a mother cries out in rage, did He allow her child to die from cancer when He had the power to heal him?

As Bob Dylan asks in his famous song “With God on Our Side,” when a kiss betrayed Jesus (peace upon him), did Judas Iscariot have God on his side? These are timeworn questions that have challenged pastors, rabbis, and imams alike. Their answers are likely to be as different as the people offering them.

Muslims view the conquest of good over evil differently than most Christians, Jews, and others. The Qur’an repeatedly reminds us that “Everything is from God.” Muslims don’t have a generalized view of good triumphing over evil. Not immediately anyhow.

We leave that up to God. It’s in His wheelhouse, not ours. It’s difficult for many people to accept that it will happen — but it might not be when and how we want it to. Perhaps this is why many people “lose faith.”

My October column for “Faith and Reason” was titled “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” The reality is that evil things can and do happen. If we lose — or temporarily — lose our faith that God will come through for us, instead of falling into despair can we explore other options to get us through until something changes for us?

When we’re grieving, in severe emotional pain, or in another crisis, few of us want to hear empty platitudes from well-meaning others. They can make us feel worse or even angry.

If our 95-year-old grandma dies, is it kind or cruel to be told, “She lived such a long life!”

What helped me in the past when I felt like giving up was having faith in the kindness of others. “How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time,” said award-winning actor and producer Morgan Freeman.

I was working as a prison counselor when my Dad passed away. When I returned from bereavement leave, I found a handmade card on my desk the men on my caseload made from a vanilla file folder. On the front was a verse from the Qur’an written across a rose and painted by one of the “artists” on the unit.

Inside, each of them wrote some comforting lines expressing condolences. Even some of the men who weren’t on my caseload added something. As I read each contribution to the card, I cried and wasn’t ashamed to let these men see my tears. Their kindness was genuine and meant the world to me. Not one of those men asked me what happened, how my dad died, or how old he was, etc. They were just there for me in my time of mourning.

Acts of kindness: They don’t require much effort or even have to cost money. Even a smile is a random act of kindness. When I smile at someone at the grocery store, and they return my smile, I usually add a “good morning” or “good afternoon” to it. My heart feels uplifted afterward, and I can see by their facial expression that they feel pretty good, too.

Small kindnesses can change people and change the world. Many people have personal problems that don’t show on their outsides: issues with their spouse, kids, finances, co-workers, unemployment, etc. People carry around stress, depression, worry, and the like. We don’t know their backstory. And here you come along with a small act of kindness like a smile and a good morning, and they feel better just for a short time!

Suppose you want to explore more about kindness. In that case, there’s an excellent website: RandomActsOfKindness.org, a free kindness resource where you can get great quotes like the one above from Morgan Freeman and memes you can put on your social media pages to teach and remind your family and friends about kindness.

The site has a page for educators to teach about kindness at school. It is SO essential as bullying and student suicide are sadly on the rise!

Like Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend, Eeyore, said “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” In this way, good can triumph over evil in someone else’s life when they need it the most.

S. E. (Sr. Safiyyah) Jihad Levine is a Muslim Chaplain and the secretary of the Sunbury Islamic Center. She is also the Director of Project Hurriyyah. This volunteer project assists Muslim women and girls in the criminal justice system.


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