I was eleven the first time I visited New York City.
We stopped in a corner store to hunt for souvenirs. A thousand corner stores dot that island, but I'll never forget what happened in this one.
I wanted a postcard to remember my trip by, so I picked one out and headed to the cashier.
After pulling out the wallet I had borrowed from my mom, I slid two dollars across the counter.
The postcard rung up for $2.50.
Embarrassed, I shoved my hand back into the overly-adult-looking purse to rummage for the $10 bill I still had.
After too many seconds passed, I fished it out and stuck my hand across the counter.
The cashier, who didn't seem to speak much English, looked down at me with kind eyes and a soft smile.
"You don't have 50 cents?"
"It's okay," she smiled.
"But I can pay!" I waved my $10 again.
This was supposed to be the city of greed where where you have to fight to survive and everyone is only out for themselves.
Yet here was this cashier, likely working to make ends meet, giving this kid from the suburbs a pass.
The postcard is long gone, and memories of the rest of the day escape me. But I can't forget the look in her eyes. It was the look of compassion.
Although those two quarters are likely long forgotten, she gave me the most generous 50 cent gift I've ever received. The gift of kindness from a stranger.
Sometimes strangers--the people I'll never get to thank--are the ones who remind me most what love looks like. It is often quiet. It is often in the little things.
And it's in the smallest gifts from people, that I'm reminded how God gives and wants to give us good gifts too.
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
-Matthew 7:9-11 (NIV)
If you have ever seen compassion...
If you have ever seen understanding...
If you have ever seen patience...
If you have ever seen kindness...
If you have ever seen mercy...
If you have ever seen grace...
If you have ever seen forgiveness...
...from a fellow human, how much more would a god of perfect love give these things?
We feel we have to earn his acceptance, forgiveness, or approval. We don’t.
He gives it freely to the first and the last. The educated and the uneducated. The popular and the ostracized. The beautiful and the shunned.
If you think God doesn't want to love, understand, or know you, remember a time you've seen these things in art or in experience. If an imperfect human can love, how much more can a perfect God?
Why does God love us? Because he does because he does because he does. That is who he is.
“God is love—and that is not an explanation of who God is; that’s an explanation of what love is.”
- Dallas Willard
*The actual dollar amounts in this story escape me, but the story still holds up.