devozine

Spiritual Practice

What a World It Would Be

Lanecia A. Rouse

Last fall, I pulled up to the coffee shop window, prepared to pay for my tall pumpkin spice latte. Imagine my surprise when the barista said, “No charge, ma’am. The customer before you paid for your coffee.”

“Wow! Wonderful! Thank you!” I exclaimed to the barista and to the person in front of me, who was long gone.

Before I knew it, a huge smile covered my face. A series of simple acts of kindness was unfolding at the coffee shop, and I found myself drawn into a chain of generosity as people chose to respond to the generosity of the person before them by extending the same kindness to the person behind them. In each act, the giver acknowledged the gift they had received and chose to respond by bringing delight to another through the gift of a free cup of coffee.

Participating in a different way of living in the world is powerful. In a world where focusing on our own wants and needs is easy, experiencing the kindness of a complete stranger is compelling. We begin to imagine new ways of being in community that are grounded in gratitude for the gifts we have received and in a love that compels us to share with others.

AlishaTeachingCarolynFor the past four years, I have worked as the Project Manager of The Art Project, Houston, a therapeutic art program of the Bread of Life, a non-profit organization providing solutions for homelessness, hunger, and HIV/AIDS in downtown Houston. Over the years, I have seen a number of people come seeking support for getting off the street. Each week the volunteer team at the Bread of Life consists of at least one man or woman who has experienced homelessness or who is currently homeless. Some of these people pay it forward by volunteering every Wednesday at the food fair, managing the clothes closet, serving meals during the weekend breakfast, or donating art and supplies. Others choose to pay it forward by offering words of encouragement at our Saturday morning services, praying with people, leading a support group, or assisting with an art class. People pay it forward in their own ways, out of gratitude for the support and love they received when they were in need of community.

Bread of LIfeWhat a world this would be if every day we took time to acknowledge our blessings and to discern ways to pay it forward without judgment or expectation of the person receiving the gift!

I imagine that the practice of giving would create patterns of joy, community, and unconditional love in our lives and in the lives of others that would make the world a better place.

 

DIG DEEPER

Start a gratitude journal. Each day, remember moments of grace and kindness shown to you by others and name ways you might create moments of grace and kindness for others. What you give may look nothing like what you received. Have fun with the process, and allow gratitude to create goodness in your life.

Lanecia A. Rouse is an artist, speaker, writer and cultivator of creativity based in Houston, Texas. She formerly served as one of the Pastors of Mission at St. John’s Downtown United Methodist Church.

—from devozine (March/April 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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