Imago Dei–God’s Image Reflected in Small Acts of Kindness
by Nancy E. Head
“What do you need?” my husband Paul asked the director of a local food pantry during the holidays one year. The two had just met ‘by chance’.
A big smile spread across “Bob’s” face. “Nothing.”
Then he outlined a story about a great need the pantry staff had faced the week before. For years, a local company had donated $2,000 worth of turkeys every Christmas. But the company was now gone, replaced by a larger corporate entity.
No more turkeys.
Someone had made a donation that would have put a tiny dent in this need. But the holidays were coming fast.
Then Bob’s phone rang. A local grocer was in a panic. Someone had accidentally frozen dozens of turkeys labeled “fresh”. The company could write off the turkeys. But they could not sell them.
“When would you like us to pick them up?” Bob asked.
He has regarded the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their prayer. Psalm 102: 17.
The holiday season is filled with stories of kindness. But only God could have “accidentally” provided so many turkeys, the exact need for the pantry’s patrons.
As miracles go, this one is small. But tiny miracles are sometimes the ones with the most power to encourage.
My friend was ringing a bell beside a red kettle. Passersby impressed her with their generous donations to the kettle and a gift of hot chocolate for her.
On social media, I read of a worn out mother trying to get her weary little ones through a restaurant lunch. A fellow diner paid for her family’s meals and helped her herd her flock to her car.
Two men in line at a busy store began to argue–each encouraging the other to go first.
Paul and I were at the post office waiting to mail packages that were not quite ready to go. A stranger waiting with us helped me wrap. Paul held our places in line. She folded. I taped. The process was fun and not frustrating as it might have been.
Sometimes, little miracles happen right in our own neighborhoods—right in the heart of our homes—the dining room.
When I moved into my house in 1977, I salvaged an old table my father was discarding. Our family grew from four to seven around that table.
Then we shrank. When the children’s father departed, we were six.
The years began to show on the table. One of its legs began to wobble. Without warning, it would collapse to the floor leaving all the work for the other three legs. We would laugh. But after a while, one of us found the falling leg not so funny.
When my youngest son was eight years old, he found a hammer and some very long nails and played carpenter. He reattached the errant piece, permanently joining it to the table. The repair was effective, but not pretty.
A few years later, I got a “new” dining room table—also recycled. This table was better. It expanded as our family was expanding. I had remarried. Some of the children had grown and married and had children of their own.
So the table could be small for everyday dinners, and it could be large for family celebrations.
Plus, it was reliable–for a time. Then one of its legs turned mutinous too.
This time, Paul played carpenter, and unless you peeked underneath, you didn’t know the difference.
But our family continued to expand. Eventually, even our stretched out table was too small. Our range of motion became cramped. From fork to plate, to mouth and back. We yearned for extra room for side dishes and elbows.
So we bought a new table. An Amish carpenter constructed it.
This table is even more expandable than the last one. And it’s rectangular rather than oval. Now we have room for baked corn, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and a host of elbows.
The table was ready just in time for Thanksgiving.
But in order to use your furniture, you first must get it into the house.
Paul heaved and I pushed. But even in its smallest state, the table was too wide for our front door. It would have to come in through the back door. To accomplish that, we would have to hoist the table over the back deck rail. And that seemed impossible unless we could find someone else to help.
The best candidate seemed to be the young man who had just moved in next door. He was strong and he was home.
As only Providence would have it, we learned that he is a mover by trade. God had placed the perfect workman right next to us.
Moreover, there are many workmen with you, stonecutters and masons of stone and carpenters, and all men who are skillful in every kind of work. 1 Chronicles 22:15
All we had to do was ask.
The old table went out the back door and the new table came in.
We had planned to put the old table on the sidewalk with a “Free” sign on it. But Paul found out that this very neighbor and his wife had no table. Now they do. We would never have known their need if we had not asked for his help.
So I’m thankful for my new table. I’m thankful for the craftsman who made a table with legs unlikely to wobble in my lifetime. I’m thankful for the help of a neighbor and that we could help him in return.
Someone might argue that these encounters are nothing like real miracles. The laws of nature stood intact through each story.
Each encounter, though, reflects regard for neighbor over self. Each person who reached out touched others and those who stood by as witnesses.
Imago Dei–God’s image reflected in small acts of kindness. Wonderful little miracles to give hope to those in need, to a weary traveler, to a busy shopper, to a neighbor with no table.
I’m thankful for all the elbows to occupy our table this holiday season. I’m thankful that we expect another set of elbows next spring.
Most of all, I’m thankful for the Master Carpenter who places us in each other’s lives and gives us opportunities to help each other.
We can be imago Dei and give the miracle of us to others.
Give thanks to the God of heaven, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 136: 26
About the Author
Author Nancy E. Head was a single mother with five children under the age of 14 when many in the Church came to her aid. Her story illustrates common problems in our society such as the fracturing of families and communities, reflecting a splintering Church. Alienated families and a riven Church cannot minister as effectively to their own members or others until they find accord. Nancy is the author of Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ's Love Through the Church in One Accord. She leads a small group ministering to the needy in her community. Connect with Nancy on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.
You can read Nancy’s HEADlines column on the 4th Saturday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.