Acts of kindness have repercussions that can continue for lifetimes. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, there was a woman who cleaned a Catholic school every day. She took her little girl with her who very quickly captured the hearts of the nuns who ran the school. The little girl wanted an education more than anything and told the nuns every chance she got. So, when Charlotte Tidwell was in first grade, the nuns at the school made her a bargain: If she helped her mother clean the building after class, she could attend for free. The sisters’ kindness would ripple through Tidwell’s life—from being accepted as one of three African Americans in her nursing program and becoming Sparks Hospital’s director of medical nursing to founding a charity with which she feeds more than 7,000 people a month in her hometown.
Fort Smith, Arkansas, was once a thriving manufacturing town, but it never recovered after its factories started to close in 2000. When Tidwell heard some elderly were eating cat food out of desperation, she started handing out groceries from a truck. A former boss connected Tidwell with an investor, who gave her the building where her group, the Antioch Consolidated Association for Youth and Family, is based.
Tidwell, 69, and her volunteers work ten-to-12-hour shifts at the warehouse Monday to Friday. On Saturdays, they bring food and other sustenance to senior housing complexes. Once, while escorting kids to sing at a home, she saw a man crying. He was reminded that his radio was broken, so Tidwell returned later with a new radio. “The greatest satisfaction is to watch others grow with compassion,” she says. “I see volunteers transformed, and it makes me know we can get back to a community of caring I grew up with.”
Because of some caring nuns, thousands and thousands of people have benefitted from Charlotte Tidwell’s kindness both directly and physically and spiritually and emotionally. It didn’t really cost the nuns anything to let the young Charlotte go to school for free, but because they cared—the world changed. The important message here, one that comes from Christ Himself, is that if you live your love that comes from having Christ abiding in your heart, you will change the world—and you can’t help it.