A surprising act of kindness

When John shares his vision of God’s glorious future in Revelation 21, he recounts no more tears, no more crying, no more pain.  However, he fails to mention that in the new Jerusalem there will be no more ink-jet printers.

For I am certain that ink-jet printers (all brands) have a malevolent intelligence,  a facility still undetected by the scientific community.  These mean machines can happily print page after page until your most important document is presented.  You are working to a tight deadline.  And what happens?  It chews your most precious paper up.  How do they know?  And more to the point, why do they do it?

Last year I was buying yet another printer, this time a Kodak with a scanner, from Comet.  At the check out I filtered out the usual routine from the sales assistant about buying an extended warranty.

Then I heard the phrase “five years” soon followed by a second phrase “£33.”

An eureka moment – for I knew that no ink-jet printer on this planet could ever last for five years.  Paying the £33 would be a one-way bet – and so for the first time in my life, I signed up.

And I wasn’t to be disappointed.  Some 14 months later, about ten weeks ago, this latest printer chewed up a document of massive importance.  I needed a new machine – and so back to Comet in Southport.  I handed over the printer, received the paperwork and thankfully, because the warranty is provided by a company not going into receivership, I received a cheque for a replacement printer.

Then this Monday evening I take a phone call from this same Comet store,  from a young woman asking if I had had my printer returned in full working order.  Not surprisingly for a company going into receivership, the paperwork was awry.   “I’m fine – I now have a new printer.”

But then it struck me, that this branch of Comet was about to close, in just 15 minutes time as it happens.  The person phoning me, concerned for my welfare, is about to lose her job.  The doors soon to close for the last time, the last person out about to turn off the lights.

Tears welling in my eyes, I thanked her for her kindness, in checking that my printer problem had been addressed.  She simply said that she wanted to make sure that all outstanding issues for their customers had been resolved.

Truly this was an act of duty on the same level as the centurion in Edward Poynter’s paining “Faithful unto death” or the men standing erect to attention as the women and children abandon ship in Lance Calkin’s The Wreck of the Birkenhead.

Let down by the paucity of vision of her senior management and facing an uncertain future in a difficult employment market, this young retailer showed a truly remarkable sense of responsibility for their – for her – customers.  If I had been still waiting for my printer to be fixed, what was that to her?  Well, everything, it would seem

It’s often in the small things that our true nature comes out, when we are under pressure and when any act of kindness requires a definite act of the will.

I didn’t ask this saint from Comet whether she was a Christian.  I just thanked her for doing her duty and wished her well for the future.

Jesus prepares his disciples for mission. “It’s best to start small, “ he tells them.  “Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”  (Matthew 10:41 in the Message translation).

So decide to do something small and insignificant today in order to bless someone – especially in an unexpected context.  They may not even notice but we are assured that whatever we do in Jesus’ name will always be fruitful.  It’s how the Holy Spirit trains us for instinctive holiness.