When we, as a family, were living in Dundee on the east coast of Scotland, I recall one Friday night driving a minibus full of our church’s young people back home from an event in Edinburgh.

As we approached the toll booth of the Forth Road Bridge I was urged not only to pay for us, but also for the person in the vehicle behind.

We didn’t know who that car driver was but these teenagers thought it would be fun to see how they would react to me paying for them. So I did.

And the minibus was full of laughter as we watched the guy in the toll booth try to explain to the confused driver that he was free to keep driving because his fee had been paid for.

And how our young people cheered as a few moments later, the car driver overtook us, giving a toot of his horn and a grateful thumbs up!

That’s an example of what the writer and journalist Danny Wallace, in his book Join Me, calls a ‘Random Act of Kindness’ - doing something helpful for someone else, not for personal gain, but simply because such kindness is a good thing to do, and will hopefully brighten the day of the person on the receiving end.

I’ve been reminded of the importance of such behaviour in recent weeks, as I have heard and read stories of peoples’ generous and thoughtful deeds for neighbours, friends and strangers, trying to make life during this pandemic crisis that little bit more bearable.

We should never underestimate the real difference an act of kindness can make in another person’s life.

I once read of a couple who devoted much of their married life to being foster parents.

Among the children they cared for were 18-month-old twin boys. The first night in their care, when these boys were put to bed, everything was quiet. So quiet that the husband, after some while, went into the bedroom to see how the twins were.

He found both boys wide awake but silent, and their pillows were wet with tears.

The couple discovered that, in several of the homes they had been in, the twins had been beaten if they cried... and this couple’s house was the ninth in which they had stayed in such a short period of time!

Experts said these twins were emotionally and intellectually damaged beyond repair.

However, after two years with this loving and caring couple, the boys were said to be intellectually and emotionally normal. Primarily because they knew the genuine love and kindness of these foster parents.

I believe that this yearning we often have to express kindness to others underlines what the Bible tells us, that we are made in God’s image.

If you take the time to look, you’ll see that one of the oft-repeated descriptions of God in Scripture speaks of his benevolent nature towards us.

“Your lovingkindness is better than life,” writes King David in Psalm 63:3. And the gospel record of the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus is full of examples of his gracious dealings with needy people, including many who were shunned by society in general. In fact, the Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:7, says that it is in the Lord Jesus himself that we see….the full measure of God’s kindness to us.

Also, one aspect of ‘The Fruit of the Spirit’, that the Bible says should be visible in the life of every believer is kindness.

So when we take to heart the instruction in Colossians 3:12 to ‘clothe yourselves with kindness’, we realise that we are never more like Jesus than when we follow his example of generosity to others in word and deed.

Scottish pastor Alistair Begg is right when he says that ‘genuine kindness will live on in the hearts of men and women for many a generation’.

I wonder, if over the next 12 months, someone was to pay you £10 for every kind word and deed of yours, but collect £5 for every unkind thing you do or say, in a years time how much richer or poorer would you be?