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Unexpected Kindness in Malawi

Alan woke up one morning last July filled with gratitude. He was up early that market day to set up his bicycle repair business in the village center. He turned some bikes on their handlebars to replace missing peddles with pieces of wood. To other bikes he would affix new handles or fancy seats to the back for bike-taxi passengers. That morning, when Boyd and I met Alan in Manyamula village in Malawi, Alan thanked God for getting him through the night so that he could meet us and thank us.

Tanya, Alan, and Boyd at the Manyamula Market

Tanya, Alan, and Boyd at the Manyamula Market

He was thoughtful as he told us his story of receiving a Spirit in Action Small Business Fund grant and starting his repair business. He paused often to make sure we understood the impact that this had on his life: his son now attends high school; his wife started her own small grocery kiosk. And so he thanked us that day as representatives of Spirit in Action.

It was a short encounter and it left a strong impression on me. Maybe it was because he was the first shop we visited that day, but I think there was also something about his kindness and openness that impressed me.

That was not the last time we saw Alan during our short visit to Manyamula nor was it the last time we saw his kindness. The next day, we met up with him in one of the village churches. Alan’s short testimony told of how the church brought him out of the dark pit of alcoholism onto a road of light and faith. Then he showed his gratitude by giving his pledged tithe of maize to the church to be used to help others less fortunate than himself.

After church, Alan hung around outside, waiting while people took pictures with us. As the group thinned, he shyly approached us with a gift – a wooden spoon used for serving the local staple food, nsima. For a third time, his kindness was an unexpected blessing.

Alan’s gifts and kindness perfectly embody the sentiment of Sharing the Gift – realizing that we have received kindness and acting to share that kindness with others. As the quote by Bob Kerrey reminds us, kindness that comes at an unexpected time is the “most underrated agent of human change.” I have no doubt that we saw just a small sample of Alan’s kind actions and that even today he is helping more people know hope, joy, and gratitude.

How has a recent act of kindness changed you? What kindness will you share with others today?

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