Looking to the margins is often where we’ll be surprised by a glimpse of God. We become too familiar with the main players in the Gospels. We expect Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to be exemplary role models. But for the Christian message to take root, there must have been hundreds, even thousands, among the early followers of Jesus to live the life he exemplified, to witness to his words with their deeds. Sometimes seeing someone else offering their service to another person in need is all we need to spark our own mercy and generosity. We think, “That doesn’t seem so hard. I could do that.” We are called to be generous to others because God has been so very generous to us. We are merciful toward others because we know God has been merciful to us. We forgive as we have been forgiven or even as we hope to be forgiven. And in turn we become role models for someone else. The phrase “pay it forward” came into vogue several years ago with a book by that name. The concept is as old as the Gospels, perhaps as old as the human race. It’s the bedrock of the values that govern the lives of all religions and most civilizations. We know it as the Golden Rule, the greatest commandment, but really it all comes down to love. Find a way to surprise someone with a helping hand today. It could be a friend, a family member, a stranger. You might already know what you’re going to do. If you don’t, pray that God will give you a nudge at the right time. And then keep your eyes open for the opportunity. Chances are you’ll find it so rewarding that you’ll do it again—and again.
— from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent
by Diane M. Houdek