Rich, a dear friend of mine, had a horrible conflict with his neighbor, Cynthia. A property line dispute that began with debates in the back yard had evolved into heated arguments. Eventually Cynthia filed a lawsuit.
As a trained peacemaker, Rich felt guilty and embarrassed that he had been unable to resolve the conflict personally.
One evening he was standing in his back yard looking at Cynthia’s house through the growing shadows. Wrestling with frustration and guilt, he prayed a simple question, “What can I do to settle this, Lord? How can I get through to her and work out a reasonable compromise?”
At that very moment, all of the lights in Cynthia’s house, as well as the other houses on her street, went out. A local power outage left his opponent with no electricity.
When he recovered from his initial surprise, Rich recalled that Cynthia had a large aquarium. Without power the aerator would not work. If it was out all night, the fish might be harmed.
Within moments a principle he learned during peacemaker training, came to mind:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Rich hesitated for a few moments, wondering whether the passage applied to electricity. But something inside moved him to act. He ran to his garage and grabbed all of his extension cords. After plugging into the outlet on his own back porch, he strung the cords together all the way to Cynthia’s back porch.
Feeling awkward and nervous, he knocked on her back door. She emerged with a flashlight in her hand and a surprised look on her face.
Before she could speak, Rich simply said, “I saw your power was out and was concerned that the fish in your aquarium might be in trouble without the aerator. So I thought you could use a little electricity.”
Cynthia was speechless. She was so stunned she didn’t know what to say.
And then the power came on.
If Rich had hesitated even one minute to obey the prompting to help his neighbor, it would have been too late.
As lights from inside her house illuminated the porch, Cynthia relaxed a bit and said, “Thank you, but I guess I won’t be needing it now.”
Rich was undeterred. He held the end of cord out again and said, “Well, why don’t you keep this for the night just in case the power goes out a second time.”
As he walked back to his home a few minutes later, Rich felt a peace he hadn’t known in weeks. The next morning he found his extension cords coiled neatly on his back porch.
Later that day, he and Cynthia encountered each other on a corner near their homes. She thanked him again for his thoughtfulness. He suggested that they try once again to talk through their differences personally. One civil conversation led to another. Within a week they reached an agreement and closed the lawsuit.
As neighbors and friends commented about the situation in the months that followed, Rich used it as a springboard to share the wisdom principle that inspired his actions. A painful lawsuit was turned into an opportunity to be an inspiring example to others.
What about you? Do you have a difficult neighbor? A disappointing spouse or a frustrating teen? A critical supervisor or irritating coworker?
If so, try to discern a need that person may have, whether material, emotional or spiritual, and then move to meet it.
Your simple act of kindness may soften that person’s heart or serve as a positive example to people who are watching you.
Even if no one else changes, this wisdom principle can change your heart as you learn to find peace and joy by responding to evil with good.
– Ken Sande
- What are some of the other potential benefits of finding ways to do good to people who have wronged you?
- Has anyone every treated you with undeserved kindness? How did it make you feel? How did it affect your relationship?
- Have you seen examples of other people meeting the needs of someone who did not deserve their kindness? What impact did that have?
- Read “If Your Enemy Is Freezing.” What are some other material, emotional or spiritual needs that people may have in daily life that you might be able to meet this week?
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© 2015 Ken Sande
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