Handbag over one shoulder, three-year-old on the other hip, I gazed at the admission prices for the zoo – Taronga Zoo – probably the most beautiful zoo in the world with to-die-for views of Sydney Harbour. It was a crisp winters morning with clear blue sky. A great day for walking the kids through giraffes, penguins and big cats.
My husband was leading us toward the ticket booth when a man approached. Ben had seen him following our family from the bus. The stranger held out his hand and said, “I have two free child admission tickets to the zoo. Would you like them?”
I began to explain that our youngest son was under four and would receive free admission anyway. “I just read it on the sign over there,” I pointed.
He didn’t seem to hear me and continued, “I came all the way here today to give these tickets away.”
I stopped talking. The weight of his words slowly sinking in.
“Yes. Thank you so much. You are very kind.”
And with that the stranger handed us the tickets and disappeared. He slipped into the crowd of passers by, most of whom were making their way into the zoo, but he wandered the other way.
And we stood in stunned silence for a few moments attempting to grasp what happened.
Mark 12:41 opens with Jesus sitting near the collection box in the Temple. I am sure many wealthy people paraded their offerings in grandiose style. Though Jesus observed many lavish displays, the one that caught His attention was two small coins from a poor widow.
Mark 12:43-44 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”
That day at Taronga zoo, I felt like Jesus. I felt like I observed a poor man who had very little, but somehow he knew the power of giving. He knew if he gave what he had, God would give back to him. So he went out of his way, got on a bus and came to the zoo. To give.
From this seemingly meaningless encounter, I have learnt a few things:
1. There is no such thing as a random act of kindness.
They were very “in” a few years ago. Society implored us to do more random acts of kindness. But kindness is not random. It is intentional. Human nature is selfish. So kindness has to be planned. Sure, you will be randomly kind from time to time, but if you wait for the urge to be kind, you won’t be kind all that often.
Planning to be kind will be inconvenient. You might have to take a day off work – without pay – to be kind. You may have to drive for an hour to pick someone up and bring him to church. You may have to get on a bus with a couple of free tickets and hand them to strangers. But it will not happen randomly. Kindness takes planning.
2. You always have something to give.
You may think you have nothing to give. But you do.
You may even have a couple of free vouchers sitting around your house that you will never use.
But someone else will.
Someone would be very thankful for them.
It may not be convenient to give. You will have to approach a stranger. You will have to drive out of your ordinary route or hop on a bus. But go out of your way and bless someone else. Because you always have something to give.
3. When you give, Jesus makes note.
He especially makes note of sacrificial, out of the ordinary giving. Even if it is small. Even if you think it is insignificant. It does not escape Jesus’ notice. He sees what you do and faith says He rewards those who seek Him.
4. There is a Bigger Picture.
Since that day at the zoo I think about our stranger often. I think about his go-out-of-the-way kindness. And you know what I do?
I pray for him.
I pray blessing upon him.
I have done so every day since our encounter.
I don’t know the end of the story for the man who blessed us at Taronga, like we don’t know the end of the story for the widow. But I know Jesus. And I know His heart. If my heart was moved by a free ticket to the zoo, Jesus is moved by every offering.
And He will provide.
Blessing. Favour. Provision. Debt cancelation. More.
He blesses your offering.
And he has blessed the man who went out of his way to give us free tickets.
Bless you, kind sir. God bless you.