Good Deeds

I had to run to the grocery store today, specifically Walmart. I really dislike going there for a host of reasons, none of which I will go into here. Anyway, my goal is usually to park relatively near one of the cart returns. There are vast acres of parking lot and they tend to be clustered together. The OCD side of me is driven crazy by this on every trip. I don’t mind walking (it’s good for you) but I hate dragging an empty cart all over creation. I always get the one with one wonky wheel that operates at 80 dB.

Anyway, as I was returning the cart I came across an abandoned one and hooked it on to the front of mine, returning both. This comes under my heading of “general good citizenship” and not specifically a good deed. Sort of the minimum expected level of effort.


Just after leaving Walmart the road T’s into a main road and sometimes people don’t have time to get into the correct lane. You know that sick feeling when you realize you’re going to have to turn the wrong way, drive a bit, turn around, etc.? Well, an SUV on my left had that hesitating look of one who realized he needed to be on the right, not the left. I slowed down and let him in. I started thinking about good deeds and what they mean.

The popular concept of karma (NOT that Orthodox Christians believe in karma) says that “what goes around comes around”, or ‘no deed goes unrewarded or unpunished’. Lots of times we do a good deed and at least subconsciously expect to have some reward handed to us. If we follow the model of doing everything for God, no matter what the deed, then haven’t we already been rewarded? What reward can be better than eternal life with Him? This means that if we do a good deed and are rebuffed or cursed or ignored, it doesn’t matter; we didn’t do it for another human being, we did it for God.

I was driving as I was pondering this and I came to a part of the road which curves sharply 90 degrees. I slowed down (I was only doing 35 anyway) and as I turned was presented with the sight of a car with its reverse lights on. In some panic I braked and as I got closer the car (which had only backed up maybe 10 feet) pulled forward and off on the shoulder. Another car in the opposite lane (it was only a 2 lane road) had also stopped. As the car in front of me moved I could see, right in the middle of my lane, a small ball of fluff, rather calico in color. My heart sank as I thought a kitten had been hit by the car in front of me. I thought it was nice of the person ahead of me to stop to move it off the road (I assumed it was dead) then I saw the kitten lift its head. It would seem that the car had stopped just in time to avoid hitting it and the kitten (which was quite small) was only taking a bit of a rest, albeit in an unfortunate spot.

This takes a long time to tell but it happened very quickly. I suddenly realized I was stopped in the middle of my lane and looked apprehensively in my rear view mirror. I made a move to pull off the road but a woman in the car opposite me got out and stepped into the road. I stopped where I was because I realized that if a car or truck (and frighteningly, there are a number of log trucks that use this road) hurtled around the corner they would have no time to stop and I would rather they hit the back of my car than the woman who was now scooping up the kitten. I sent up a wordless prayer that a tragedy wouldn’t happen. She picked it up, waved her thanks to the rest of us (presumably for not hitting the kitten and for blocking traffic) and got back in her car. The car ahead of me pulled back onto the road and I let my foot off the brake. A car came around the curve behind me and did not hit me. We all went on.

I had tears in my eye and felt huge relief that I hadn’t had to pass a small, furry corpse. (18 years ago I hit a puppy on a highway in the country (it came out of high grass) and it has haunted me ever since.) Instead I saw an act of kindness witnessed by just the few and rewarded by none, but such good deeds radiate outward. People sometimes say that their “faith in humanity was restored” after witnessing such things, but I would rather say that it is a reminder that we are all created in God’s image.

“For goodness sake” means or indicates “For God’s sake.” …it states the value of being good for
the sake of the God Who created us along with all that exists. By being
good we restore in some miniscule manner the basic value of creation. We
affirm the Biblical story of creation: “And God saw that it was good,” that phrase which ends the days of creation. “And behold, it was very good.” “Amen!” to that.
Further, it has to do with the God within us. “So God created man in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). By our good deeds we prove that we are indeed made in God’s image.

Greater than Goodness, Fr. John Breck, 

But we believe that we are not saved through our works but through faith:

Let faith instead of works be imputed to me, O my God, for Thou wilt find no works which could justify me. But may my faith suffice instead of all works, may it answer for, may it acquit me, may it make me a partaker of Thine eternal glory.

from Prayer VIII, morning prayers

No, our good deeds may not save us, but for God’s sake, let us not omit them:

 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. [Matt. 5:16]

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