One morning I was scrolling through my Facebook feeds and noticed a post by one of my colleagues. Now, Facebook has this annoying feature where parts of a video are played to the extent that you see things that you really wish you never saw.
But this was one day that I was grateful for this feature, I received a reminder that kindness is not for loss.
The volume of the video was muted but the caption revealed things that captured my interest. There was an elderly woman who introduced herself "My name is Francine Christophe and I was born in 1933." As I read this fact, I got excited because just last week my grandmother turned 83 and she was born in 1933 too!
I examined Francine's features and marvelled at her appearance, she did not look her age and she spoke with strength. Even though I could not understand her French it was quite clear that she was an articulate woman not stricken by her years. She delivered a message which if taken seriously could perhaps help some young people add some years to their lives.
Preparing for Uncertainty
Francine highlighted that 1933 was the year that Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany and I thought "What a dreadful time that must have been to be born." The 1930s through to the mid-1940s was a time of duress, persecution, lack, and uncertainty for Jews.
Many children were born and raised in concentration camps and did not know what freedom was and those who knew such a life were not certain if it would be regained. I was drawn in by Francine's story and thus enlarged my screen to understand what the point of her broadcast was.
Francine indicated that as a child of a prisoner of war she had certain privileges: she was allowed to carry a few things for which her mother advised that she take two pieces of chocolate.
At home we play a game called "Go Packing" the scenario being that you are a shipwrecked and can only take five items along on the lifeboat. Persons usually packed things which would ensure that they are protected, would assist them in their hunt for food, and enabled them to hail a rescue team. So, this makes one wonder what good would chocolate do. Francine's mum thought that chocolate would save her daughter's life in the event that she collapsed.
One can understand that the Holocaust was an era of self-preservation. On one hand there was Hitler who believed that a particular group of people were overrunning his country and lessening the opportunities of social and economic advancement for his "people".
On the other hand sympathisers tried everything to preserve the lives of those whose existence was being threatened. Some hid Jews in their homes, smuggled them to safe havens, and countries partnered against Nazi Germany in the Second World War. What could those in the centre of the battle do but pray and trust God and comfort each other with the few possessions that they were allowed to take.
Chocolate rose to a prominent position of cavalry; yet, Francine never did take a bite; it was given instead to save the life of Helene, a pregnant woman in labour.
The conditions of the camp had worn Helene out so much so that she did not have enough strength to deliver her baby. Francine's mother thought perhaps the chocolate would give Helene the needed energy to undertake the task at hand. So, she asked her daughter to give away her chocolate. Francine could have withheld that trivial treat, thinking about her own future needs "What if I may need it tomorrow?" she could have asked.
But it was her act of kindness that enabled a baby to experience some sweet goodness in a dark world. If Helene had perished during delivery the child might have died too, and if Helene had perished and the child survived, it would not only be a prisoner of war but an orphan – alone in chaos.
Kindness Not for Loss
Later in life Francine hosted a seminar to answer a question her daughter asked of her: What would have been the result if holocaust victims received counselling? Francine shared that there were several ideas circulated in that forum but of them all this one proved true. One of the attending psychiatrists stood up and said "I am that baby" she took a piece of chocolate from her pocket and placed it in Francine's hand.
So, what was Francine's point? Nothing but – Kindness is not for loss. While we might not reap physical benefits from kindness, for certain it is not for loss. There is so much more to be gained from kindness, that not even counselling can do– character development, the preservation of life, friendships, and the approval of God.
A friend once said to me "There is nothing that you let go of that God cannot replace" and I can only imagine Francine's face when she looked at the woman whom her chocolate "gave life." Francine's chocolate bought more time for a mother and daughter to bond, and that chocolate enabled that mother and daughter to experience freedom together.
Francine recounted they were freed from the Nazi camp! And years later that little cavalry chocolate can be said to have also evoked a desire in Helene's daughter to help others heal from mental illness. Therefore, kindness today can have a domino effect on tomorrow.
The Kindness of God
As I reflect on Francine's story I consider that "I am that baby"—someone's act of kindness saved me too. It was the kindness of our God demonstrated through the humility of Jesus Christ which brought salvation to the world. We are not deserving of God's grace yet he understood that the only way we would be free from sin and death was if he conquered it all on the Cross. He took on pain and suffering so that we might live.
The Apostle Paul states that "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant"(Philippians chapter 2 verses 5-7, NIV). Jesus' death was not for loss in that he rose again that those who die to self will find life again in him.
This Easter having celebrated the Death and Resurrection of our Lord, perhaps we can do this by showing kindness too. We might not see the far reaching effects in our lifetime, but I can guarantee it would not be for loss.
Janine Williams is a fulltime theology student, passionate about the word of God which is powerful to transform the lives of individuals and nations.
Janine Williams' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/janine-williams.html