Today I found myself traveling an hour and half away from home to take a test. It sounds exciting right?! Well, actually, it was!
Mantorville, Minnesota is a small town northwest of Rochester, Minnesota. Before a few days ago, I never knew it existed. I have been out of state for the past six years, nevertheless it is a small dot on a map that can easily be overlooked. Then again, so is the town where I grew up.
It would have been easy to GPS my way into town, take the exam and then leave without anyone ever having a clue I’d been there, but that’s just not my style. Deep down I have this desire to leave places better than when I found them. This doesn’t mean I’m some super hero passing through, changing one life after another after another. It can be as simple as my tedious habit of drying off each sink I use in a public restroom, assuming paper towels are handy. Today it meant that, and also one act of kindness manifested by God.
Have you ever had that feeling, like God’s asking you to do something? For me, it feels like a slight pressure on my heart, or really, my soul. I always know it’s God, because the idea usually includes me taking a risk or doing something seemingly uncomfortable at the time. Though it’s usually simple or menial, I regularly try to shrug it off. But God is persistent, even, and especially, when the task doesn’t really make sense to me. You want me to do what?! Really? Are you sure? … Are you still sure? Yes, God’s patience with me is impeccable, and so is His grace. If I’ve been learning anything this past year, it’s that I always feel better, and adrenaline-rushed, when I take those tiny risks of faith and obey. I also repeatedly learn that God always comes through, always.
Arriving in town with time to spare before the merit test, I found my way .2 miles down the road to the County Seat Coffeehouse. Their sweet, yummy coffee drink list was extensive, but unfortunately I knew they would make me shaky, and distracted by the need to use the restroom while being tested, so I resigned to a cup of delicious chicken tortellini soup. I smiled awkwardly and distracted myself with Facebook and Instagram as I felt the eyes of the elders of the town look upon me, knowingly recognizing that I was an out-of-towner. They seemed nice nonetheless; Minnesotans generally are. I dined and ditched (pre-paying of course) and giddily jaunted the .2 miles up to the courthouse.
Upon entering, I was greeted by the officer behind the security entrance. He gladly offered me directions to where I needed to be: down the stairs, to the right and then to the left. In Conference Room 1 surrounded by seven other ladies of varying ages, I mused at the fact that half of them, including the test proctor, received the memo to wear cuffed capris. Clearly, we were all testing for the same job and we seemed to dress the part.
This exam, my second test of the week, humored me through angry customer questions, and cleared me of the test anxiety I once felt as a student. Actually, I quite liked it. I thoroughly enjoyed categorizing numbers and calculating the petty cash totals allotted in the example pages of the test. Honestly, though, my favorite part was editing. I really love editing. I didn’t realize how much until this exam. Perhaps I’ll become an editor when I grow up… Well… and a writer too!
Post-exam, the kind security officer wished me well, and I was off to celebrate my fine office support abilities with a sugary, delicious drink from the coffeehouse. Can you say Peanut Butter Bliss? With one sip of that sugary delight you’d join me in the ooo-ing and aw-ing of coffee meets sugar meets peanut butter. Accompanying my well-sipped sugar rush, the .4 miles more of meandering readied me to gas up my Honda, and head home. However, while I was feeding “Horse” my sturdy, steady Honda, I felt the pressure as I heard the still, small idea:
‘What if you ask the security officer if he wants a coffee?’
“No God, what?! I already have mine. It’d be weird. Why would I do that? I’m so not doing it. I know you’ll love me anyway.”
‘I will, but you’ll never know what would’ve happen if you did.’
“Playing with my curiosity strings God? … So not cool. I’m still not going.”
As I drove up the hill beside the courthouse, I pulled in. I had to know what in the world God was up to. Plus, a part of me gets a thrill out of random acts of kindness. I parked, and headed towards the courthouse doors, again. I spotted another worker visiting with the security guard and I almost turned around, but I was already through the first set of doors. No turning back, no turning back.
There I was. There he was. Arms crossed over my stomach, I confidently asked if I could get him a coffee from town. He mentioned to the other worker he was more of a soda person, and thanked me in a questioning way. I told him he was sitting there through it all, and he had been so kind to me, I thought I’d offer to buy him a coffee drink. Though he didn’t accept, he seemed grateful for the thoughtfulness, and if anything, the officer behind him seemed amused. Continuing to chat, he asked me if I was local and was applying for a job with their county. I told him no, that I drove in from the cities and was interested in work even further north. “I’m all over the place, “I confessed with a chuckle. He smiled just the same, and offered his knuckle. Just kidding, but he seemed grateful nonetheless. (I can’t turn down a rhyme.)
Afterwards, I felt that familiar rush that comes alongside these random-acts-of-kindness moments. It was the same rush I felt last week when I paid for the fries of the lady in the drive-through behind me at Wendy’s. I don’t know what happened, if either really made a difference or not, but through the beats of joy I felt, I know that God was grateful for my obedience (which in the end, is all that really matters). I do hope to see the big picture someday – the giant scheme that perfectly fits together all these acts-of-kindness puzzle pieces.
I’m not bragging, as none of these ideas were of my own accord, but of God. Our Father in Heaven is reaching down to us on earth, reminding us to take care of each other. No matter where we live, how well we know each other, whether or not we agree on our beliefs, how we look or whether or not we are worthy, God asks us to love one another. Take care of each other. None of us are worthy, and no one has it all together. Sometimes all we need is a free coffee on Friday, a compliment on Monday, or a smile on Wednesday. However God asks you to show love, kindness and care, just do it. I promise you that it will make someone’s day, and it will make your day.
Instead of hearing”You better leave,” leave a place better than you found it. Be the change and you will make a difference. I mean look at me – I wasn’t just a stranger in a small town easily overlooked on a map. I was a pebble, hopefully creating a ripple of kindness into a living, breathing community of people who need to know that they are appreciated. They are worthy. They are loved. Even, if only, by a stranger passing through.
“So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” -Luke 10:27