If you had only one lung as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, would you give away resources you might need to protect your health?
If your income was about half the national average but you were supporting two adult children, one of them a twenty-six-year-old son with Down syndrome, would you make such a donation?
That’s what Kim Byung-rok has done in South Korea.
After surviving tuberculosis when he was a young man, he bought land on a small, quiet mountain in 2014 to breathe fresh air. But now, in response to the pandemic, he is donating a large part of his holdings to the local government, hoping the proceeds will be used to help those in need.
This is not all Mr. Kim is doing to serve others.
His job is polishing and mending shoes; for the past twenty-five years, he has fixed thousands of used or cast-off shoes and donated them to the poor. He also provides free haircuts to older people with dementia or other health problems.
His land gift is especially extraordinary. Authorities are trying to make sure he will not face gift taxes, but Mr. Kim is adamant: “If I have to pay that, I would accept that.”
Many are encouraging him to take care of his family first, but Mr. Kim says, “I’ve never had my kids go hungry and I’ve been living happily. . . . I’m satisfied with my life and can’t just ignore the poor and needy.”
Mr. Kim has had a turbulent life: his father died when he was six, and his stepfather beat and abused him. He ran away from home and began working as a shoeshine boy at the age of ten. He drank and smoked excessively, then contracted TB.
His illness drew him to his faith and to his volunteer service. He said at his Seoul shop, “I went through a rough childhood and I got help from others all the time. I’ve always thought I should one day become a person who helps others.” He added: “Wouldn’t it be good if I give the people strength and courage?”
The multiplying power of kindness
When Kim Byung-rok decided to donate land to help others, I doubt he knew that the Associated Press would one day tell his story or that I would retell it today. That’s the multiplying power of kindness: what we do for someone else seldom stops with them. They want to pay forward what they have received, and others who hear the story want to tell it.
An act of generosity is like a pebble tossed into a pond that generates ripples touching every part of the shore.
The greater the need, the greater the opportunity. The Associated Press picked up Mr. Kim’s story for a specific reason: “While nonstop global news about the effects of the coronavirus have become commonplace, so, too, are the stories about the kindness of strangers and individuals who have sacrificed for others. ‘One Good Thing’ is an AP continuing series reflecting these acts of kindness.”
I believe God would have each of us pray every day about ways we could do what Mr. Kim is doing.
What need could we meet today?
Do we know someone in quarantine or otherwise alone who needs a word of support for us?
Do we know someone who needs food or medicine to be delivered?
Do we know someone who needs our intercession?
Do we know a lost person who needs our encouragement to turn to Jesus?
You cannot know all the ways God will multiply your next act of kindness.
But he does.