When I ordered them last week, I was told I could have a second pair free. I thought about it - perhaps less carefully than usual - and declined the offer. I don't know why: I like a bargain as much as anyone else does. But in the last day or two I regretted that decision.
So this morning I asked the assistant whether it was too late to take up the offer. I was quite sure that it was too late, and really didn't expect my request to be entertained. But to my surprise, the manager was consulted straight away, and she agreed without hesitation. Whilst I know customer service and satisfaction are important from a business point of view, I nevertheless felt that I'd been treated far better than my foolishness deserved - and it was heart-warming. (And no, I wasn't wearing a clerical collar at the time!)
Going out of our way for others can be inconvenient and even costly, but its value is immeasurable. It has the potential to change perspectives, lighten the day, lift the mood; to help others feel valued and worthwhile. We rarely know what other people are facing in their lives on any particular day, especially if we don't even know them. Some of those we encounter will be feeling lonely, vulnerable, anxious, irritable or depressed. Doing whatever lies within our power for them can be the one thing that day which warms their hearts and begins to transform their life.
Many years ago, before I was ordained, a particularly bitter elderly lady with a very sharp tongue used to sit behind us in church. Sunday by Sunday we'd say hello to her, and endure her tirades. It could be quite demanding. Then, one day, the church heating had broken down. The cold was as bitter as her complaints. We were concerned about the effect the cold might have upon her, so we slipped out just before the service began, borrowed a hot-water bottle from one of the neighbours, and brought it back to her full and hot. It was such a simple thing to do - unasked, unnecessary perhaps, uncharacteristically thoughtful on our part (I know there have been far too many missed opportunities for kindness over the years). But this lady was touched and transformed; bitterness gave way in her life to graciousness and contentment, and that simple action was the turning-point.
Jesus taught us to do for others as we would have them do for us. So let's redouble our efforts, and warm the hearts of those around us.