I was in the mood for koay teow th’ng (broad rice noodle soup) for dinner and walked to a nearby coffee shop, the ones that had many food stalls. The koay teow th’ng was in high demand and many were waiting to give their orders. Finally it was my turn and the koay teow th’ng man asked if I was taking away or eating in. I said I was eating in. He then asked me where I would be sitting. I looked around and saw that all the tables were full except for one. That table was not in use because it had no chairs. I looked around to see if there were any chairs not in use but there were none. Just then I heard someone calling out “uncle, uncle”. I looked around and it was the busy koay teow th’ng man. He said, “here’s a chair” and miraculously produced one.

What impressed me was this: here was a man busily cooking, who noticed my predicament and took the trouble to help me. He wasn’t desperate for business. He had more than enough orders for the evening. It was an act of kindness. It felt good to be back in Penang. I was reminded again of the power of kindness, and will look back on this incident as one of the highlights of my trip to Penang.

Our friend, Dr William Wan, who heads the Singapore Kindness Movement observed that he often gets more interest about kindness from those who are not Christians. This is really perplexing because kindness is one of the characteristics of God:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6–7 NIV)

Therefore, followers of Christ are to be people who are kind.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12 NIV)

But what is kindness? It has two components, desire and action. To be kind to someone is to desire that person’s welfare and happiness. It is expressed in useful deeds that contribute toward that person’s welfare and happiness. The koay teow th’ng man was concerned for me. He did something — he found me a chair. Kindness must be expressed. This is exemplified in God’s kindness to us. He sent Jesus to die for our sins.

Looking at the world around us, we need kindness more than ever. Many are hurting because of the impact of the Covid pandemic. And society seems more polarised than ever with so much anger and hatred between groups who don’t agree with each other. Christians are often not exempt from the failure to show kindness.

I rarely hear about kindness in our churches. When did you last hear a sermon on kindness? In our follow-up of new believers do we let them know that followers of Jesus are expected to be people who are kind? Indeed, do Christians have the reputation of being kind people in our societies? When people think of Christians, do they automatically associate us with kindness? I think kindness is underrated in both church and society. It is powerful. In a busy and selfish society people notice kindness. We need it more than ever.

I finished my dinner and, as I was leaving the coffee shop, I went by the koay teow th’ng stall and thanked the man for his kindness. He was busy cooking and replied that it was nothing. If we don’t have an opportunity to show kindness, we should at least acknowledge it when we receive it.