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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Recycle

November 26th, 2007

I once worked with someone from Bermuda. He was very outgoing and kind toward his co-workers, even the people who weren’t easy to get along with.

One day I commented on this. “I’ve noticed how friendly you are to everyone. Even the people who aren’t very nice.”

His answer was insightful. With a big smile and a delightful British-Caribbean accent he said, “When you live on an island, you quickly learn that everyone “recycles”. Sooner or later, you’ll see them all again. So it makes sense to be kind.”

How would we treat people if we knew we would see them all again? If we knew that everyone would eventually “recycle”?”

Sometimes the best way to think about a question is to flip it upside down. What if we knew no one would recycle? How would we treat people if we knew we’d never see them again? 

Would we use our “once and done” point of contact as an opportunity for selfish expression? Would we allow our tongue to lash? Would we step on them to elevate ourselves?

Or would we consider it a once in a lifetime chance to impress a kindness? To build up a stranger? To deliver a single act of goodness?  

Would we take the moment for ourselves?

Or would we give the moment to others?

Certainly the presumption of future anonymity has been a catalyst to human behavior ranging from harmless practical jokes to great evil. To be sure, acts of generosity have been extended to strangers one never expects to see again. Yet ever since Adam and Eve’s failure in the Garden of Eden, our human nature is weighted toward the dark side. Our desire for recognition craves the spotlight and left to itself, our sin nature thrives in anonymity. If to the general population we put the question, “what if you knew you’d never see that person again?”, it’s a sad but safe bet the answers would be more selfish than sacrificial.

How do we treat people when we think we’ll never see them again?

Then again, I wonder…how would our attitudes toward others change if we knew that, as my island friend assumed, we’d see them all again sometime?

What if we knew the 20-something kid behind the counter at the convenience store, the one with the rivets in her ears and angry tattoos on her arms, would recycle back into our life at some point? Would we look past the body art and into her eyes?

What if we knew the hyperactive kid, the one who acts like a bouncy ball loose at Wal-Mart, was guaranteed to fly across our path again? Would we make an effort to grab his shirt tail long enough to let him know we care about more than just trying to slow him down?

What if we knew the invisible street person sitting on the downtown city sidewalk would someday enter our field of vision again? Would we stop to see them, and treat them, as one created in the image of God?

All things considered, it makes sense to live as though everyone we meet will eventually “recycle”. Even if they won’t. Acts of kindness are not forgotten. They may never know your name and even forget your face. But they will not forget the good you did. Should that person recycle back into your life, what better starting point for relationship than a kindness remembered?

Starting now, live as though everyone will “recycle”. With every person you encounter, assume you will see them again someday.

Then ask yourself this question:

“When they see me again, how do I want them to remember me?”

It just makes sense to be kind.

“I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow human being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” – William Penn

“Do you not know that it is God’s kindness that leads you to repentance?” – Romans 2:4