The Power of One | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
November 2014

The Power of One

By: Katherine Harris

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)

Once upon a time, I worked in tech support. I fielded dozens of calls a day from people whose computers and other electronics had in some way stopped working, and it was about as unpleasant as you can imagine. For every nice person, there were ten who called in frustrated, annoyed, and sometimes flat-out angry.

Looking back now, I can remember almost nothing specific about the meanness that people directed at me. I don’t remember particular insults or personal slights. I only remember one client vividly, a man who I’ll call Jim. I remember Jim because Jim changed my life.

When Jim called, he started immediately yelling at me. His phone wasn’t working, the person he had spoken to previously hadn’t been very helpful, and he was tired of being redirected. He kept interrupting me, talking over me, and was generally very hostile and uncooperative.

I was nearly ready to respond to Jim’s aggression with some cutting words of my own, but I didn’t—in part because I knew it would only escalate the situation, and also because frankly, I liked being employed.

And then, it happened: Jim started crying. I wasn’t sure what I was hearing at first, but then it became undeniable—the man who had just been screaming at me on the phone was now sobbing into it. He told me about his life: his parents had just died, his family was falling apart, he was unemployed, and he felt completely alone in the world.

Then he told me he was ready to kill himself.

While I have never worked at a suicide hotline, I have immense respect for those who do—it is incredibly scary to have someone on the phone telling you they’re planning on ending their life. I have never felt as helpless as I did listening to him say he was going to just hang up and end it all.

I didn’t know what to do, so I just started talking to him. I told him about some of the hard things that I had experienced, emphasizing that while I could never truly understand the position he was in, I did know what it felt like to lose someone you love, and to feel like things were never going to get better. Then I listened some more. We talked for an hour, until he had finally calmed down and promised to stay on the line while I transferred him to someone who could help him get help for his depression.

I cannot imagine what might have happened if I had gone with my knee-jerk reaction and responded to his anger with anger of my own. What if I had just transferred his call out of annoyance like the person before me? What if I had lost my patience and yelled back? Jim wasn’t mean-spirited—he was in excruciating pain. He didn’t need to be yelled at, or dismissed; he needed kindness. He needed to be loved.

Be kind. Please, please be kind. You never know what someone else is going through. You never know how much you can impact someone’s life with a loving word, a nod of understanding, or by just listening. It could change everything.

I don’t know what happened to Jim. I still think about him sometimes and wonder how he’s doing, if he’s still alive. I hope he is. I hope he’s okay. I hope he knows that he changed my life forever. He taught me a lesson that I will never forget. Kindness. Always kindness. And when you think you can’t? Pray, and let Jesus lead you towards kindness still.

Discussion questions: Has there ever been a time when someone else’s kindness made a big impact on you? In what ways does Jesus show us the value and importance of kindness in the Bible? How can we show small acts of kindness to those around us on a daily basis?

See more devotions from Katherine and our other Young Adult writers, or find our how you can become a writer yourself at our By Young Adults for Young Adults devotion page.