When most believers thank a higher power for the people in their lives, a mental list begins to form. It can include children, a spouse, parents, and siblings. The list naturally lengthens to extended family and friends. Perhaps a co-worker has asked for prayers for a family hardship or someone is on the sick list at their house of worship.

Although this list feels familiar and comfortable, it is missing many people. We do not even know their names.

Consider the times a complete stranger has positively affected your life. Are we equally thankful for those actions, and those nameless new friends?

Have you ever unknowingly dropped some money, and a stranger picks it up and hands it back to you? Have you forgotten you placed an envelope on top of your car, drove off and sent it sailing through the air, and then had it returned to you by someone you never met? Has your car ever slowed to a crawl, and then stopped running on a sub-freezing Christmas night? 

I have had all of those things happen to me. By the way, when my car died on the interstate, my wife and I managed to walk to a rest stop to call the Highway Patrol. A state trooper responded and took us all the way home.

We have heard of “random acts of kindness.” But are they really? Or are they the actions of thoughtful, sensitive people who are inspired by an unseen spirit?

Kind actions are not always grand gestures.  My father-in-law, who passed away recently, loved to play peek-a-boo with toddlers in restaurants. The giggles and smiles he earned for his efforts made him happy all day long.

It is not all about receiving the kindness of a stranger.  It is also a wonderful feeling to be kind.

If we are running behind when we get behind the wheel of our vehicle, we can be rude, and even dangerous. However, if we make a conscious effort to leave a bit earlier, it is no great sacrifice to allow someone to go first at a 4-way stop, or to walk in front of our car in a busy parking lot.

Get ready for a warm feeling when you give a dad a compliment about how well his children are behaving in a restaurant. I can guarantee you a smile when you thank a first responder for all he or she does. Next time you are in a long line at the grocery store, and a cashier announces a new checkout counter has opened, invite the folks in front of you to jump over there. After all, they have been there longer. This is such a rare occurrence, they will be amazed at your kindness.

During this holiday season, and beyond, let us recognize and give thanks for a kindness shown on our behalf. The circle of love continues when we show kindness to strangers. It does not cost a penny.

I once devoted an entire column to the rude people among us. Many readers told me, quite correctly, that people who misbehave are outnumbered by those who quietly hold doors open, give up their seat on a crowded bus, or help a wheelchair user get something off the top shelf.

We often hear the phrase, “lucky to be alive.” If you are on the roads at all, you know that is true. Sadly, we lose many lives each year due to humans who make mistakes and bad decisions. You are able to read this column because these people did not follow too closely, did not run a traffic light, and kept their speed at a reasonable level.

As our region has endured many storms in recent years, nameless heroes cleared debris, untangled power lines, and unselfishly provided food, clothing and shelter to those who lost everything. There never seems to be a shortage of volunteers.

Here is the untold story: we live in a nation where the huge majority of people do the right thing. They say please and thank you. They watch out for their neighbors when the heat or cold becomes extreme. They put food and water out for the birds and other critters. When the Salvation Army bell ringer cheerily greets them, they drop a few coins or bills in the red kettle. When the ball field at the school needs mowing, and the team cannot afford a mower, a Dad always steps up to help. When their garden yields a strong harvest, or their chickens lay extra eggs, they find someone with whom to share.

Yes, we have our problems, and they get the bulk of the attention.

That is why the Christmas season is a good time to thank the unsung, everyday heroes. As the song says, they are the angels among us.