A Chain Reaction of Kindness
I never really learned how to just like something. I always let it consume me.
When I was eleven years old, a woman in my church lent me a book about her cousin Rachel Joy Scott. It was a book called The Journals of Rachel Scott. Immediately, I dived in. I had kept journals on and off since I was about eight years old so I was automatically intrigued, but when I started reading the life story of a girl who was tragically murdered for her faith on the campus of Columbine High School, I was hooked.
I'm sharing this story about Rachel's life because it has inspired me since I was in sixth grade. I remember reading her story and feeling so challenged and inspired and convicted - at the young age of just eleven years old. I remember when I was either thirteen or fourteen, her brother Craig came to our church to speak on her life and her mission, and I felt that challenge all over again. It has resounded in my heart for thirteen years now, and I have let it consume me.
What exactly consumed me?
Rachel's challenge. Her challenge to start a chain reaction of kindness. She wrote in one of her high school papers called My Ethics, My Codes of Life: "Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer. My definition of compassion is forgiving, loving, helping, leading and showing mercy for others. I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."
People will never know how far a little kindness can go.
It is those words that have challenged me since I was a young girl. I have learned throughout my short 24 years on this planet that people are hurting, people are dying on the inside, people are struggling every single day - mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. People are longing to be seen - not just in the surface way that we view them everyday. But people long to be truly seen. They want to be seen in their entirety - their failures, their shortcomings, their sin, their anguish, their hurting, their doubt, their pain - and still loved endlessly and without condition or reservation. But unfortunately, they are thrown more heartache, and pain, and sadness. This is what Rachel's challenge is all about.
She wrote, later on in that same paper: "It wasn't until recently that I learned that the first and the second and the third impressions can be deceitful of what kind of person someone is. For example, imagine you had just met someone, and you speak with them three times on brief everyday conversations. They come off as a harsh, cruel, stubborn, and ignorant person. You reach your judgment based on just these three encounters. Let me ask you something...did you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from, did they experience love, did they experience hurt, did you look into their soul and not just at their appearance? Until you know them and not just their 'type', you have no right to shun them. You have not looked at their beauty, their good. You have not seen the light in their eyes. Look hard enough and you will always find a light, and you can even help it grow, if you don't walk away from those three impressions first."
Look hard enough and you will always find a light, and you can even help it grow.
Rachel was a Christian - that was known by everyone around her. But she wasn't a judgemental, Bible-thumping "Christian" that is unfortunately so prevalent in our society today. Rachel truly walked her talk and showed her relationship with God through the way she loved others. It was widely known throughout the halls of Columbine High School that Rachel was accepting of anyone and everyone - she did not have a "clique". She loved the outsider, the outcast, the underdog, the person who nobody else seemed to notice. In fact, one of her friends said once: "Rachel targeted those people." She was not ashamed to love the person nobody else wanted to talk to.
In a day where approximately 160,000 students are skipping school daily for fear of being bullied, the simplicity of Rachel's Challenge is what our world needs to be embracing. Not just our students, but our adults, our leaders, our parents, our grandparents. We need to let the simplicity of kindness re-wreck us and re-train our minds, our actions, our way of thinking and way of life.
I never want to outgrow the conviction that Rachel's life has brought to my life. Rachel saw the heart of Jesus and allowed that to impact the way she lived her life every single day. When I read about her life, I just think of the story in Mark 2 where Jesus is sitting with the tax collectors and sinners. And his disciples, his friends basically ask: "Why is he eating with them?" Jesus hears them and just simply responds: "Who needs a doctor? The healthy or the sick?" Rachel saw, like Jesus, the people who needed love and compassion the most.
I also think about the story Jesus told about the lost sheep and He says, "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?" (Matthew 18:12) Rachel lived her life with a "find the one" mentality. She lived her life to match the heartbeat of Jesus and of Heaven.
I guess this is where I'm supposed to bring this thing to a close, huh?
I have the love of Jesus and I have His spirit living inside of me and I. still. struggle. I have been very, very open about the anxiety I face and even in the album I made a few years ago, I openly talked about the suicidal thoughts I faced throughout my last two years in high school. I can't even imagine what people face everyday that don't know the love of Jesus. I don't know how they make it through life every single day. I honestly don't. But I know that just one encounter with the love of Jesus could change their entire life.
So here it is: I challenge you.
You're not going to get the opportunity to teach a bible study to every single person you ever encounter. That's not speaking doubt, that's just a fact. But you will get the opportunity to show the love and heartbeat of Jesus Christ to every single person you encounter and I know that it has become such a cliché, but you truly do not know what that little bit of kindness will do. Maybe that bit of kindness is watering the seed someone else has already planted, or maybe that will plant the seed someone else will come to water. You have the opportunity to invest in people. And what greater investment than the investment we make into the hearts and lives of others? If you are feeling empty, or broken, or confused, or hopeless - get outside of yourself and go spend some time with someone else. I promise you, your perspective and life will change instantly.
We were not created to live for ourselves. We were created to live for Jesus and to be servants of all. I admire Rachel because in her short 17 years of life, she lived a life more full than some 90 year olds have lived. She learned something in her teenage years that even the oldest and wisest people have yet to figure out. She lived a full life because she lived for Jesus and she lived for others. Is that not so inspiring? Does that not challenge you? Does that not make you want to re-evaluate everything? It does me.
Thank you, Rachel, for challenging millions of people throughout the world. The words you wrote on the back of your dresser that day were truly prophetic - your hands have touched millions of people's hearts. Your life and your death were not in vain.
For more information on Rachel's Challenge, click here.