Day 24: Unplanned ministry, unplanned kindness

Simple joys are the moments that happen throughout the day that are usually unexpected, but always put a smile on one’s face.

What about the moments when you get the chance to put a smile on someone else’s face? To bless their day? I call this unexpected ministry. For those who have a different belief system than I do who might shy from the word “ministry,” think unexpected kindness.

I hate the phrase random kindness because this is far from random. It’s just unexpected. Kindness, like ministry, should always be intentional even when it is not planned. I hope we all consider a simple joy when those moments arrive that we can minister to someone in a very small way and make their day go better, treat them with kindness.

My favorite example of unexpected ministry started around the beginning of 2012. I started getting a lot of phone calls from people on the other side of the state. A lot of phone calls. They were all looking for the Social Security office in Hot Springs.

At first I thought it was just people dialing wrong but when I started getting three or four calls every day for this place, I finally asked where they got the number. It turns out it was from a recording on the old number that gives instructions on how to get to the new number. The new number is 855-(insert my phone number here). They were told to dial 479 then the former number (which is my number but before, it was an 870 area code if you were trying to reach the Social Security office). The way it was phrased made them think they were supposed to call 479 (insert my number), which of course got them me. Yes, that’s very confusing but I didn’t clean it up just to make a point … that it’s confusing. I can totally see why people thought they were supposed to dial what they do to get me.

At first, I was really frustrated and I called the Social Security office myself to see if it could be changed or what in the world was up. I finally realized that getting the federal government to do something as simple as change a phone number would be an act of Congress so I decided to just figure out how to deal with it. I got the correct number to give to people when they call.

I had intended for these conversations to be short but courteous. They still are, but what I’m finding is that a lot of elderly and sick people are calling. They are already frustrated (wouldn’t you be if you were calling a government office?). They also felt really bad for bothering me and it seemed to make a few of them feel really bad. I realized that it would not take a ton of time out of my life to be kind to those who call and explain that it’s not their fault, that the recording is confusing. I then give them the new phone number (but make sure they have something to write with first). I don’t make chit-chat, but I do speak slowly and try to explain the situation and help them find where they need to go.

The relief in their voice that they are met with someone who treats them with kindness is amazing. I don’t say that to pat myself on the back, I say it because it almost makes me sad. It makes me sad that they seem surprised that a stranger would bother to give them the correct number and not treat them with hurried impatience. I’ve not been on Social Security, but I am a person with a disability and I know what it feels like to be treated like I’m stupid or in the way. I also have dealt with government agencies and that’s no fun either.

The calls have slowed down to only a handful a month but I don’t mind it at all now. I no longer try to avoid answering when I see a strange number pop up on my caller ID. I consider a Simple Joy to be able to treat someone with a little unexpected kindness.

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