A Lesson in the Power of Kindness From the Acme Man

“A good deed is never lost,” said St. Basil the Great. “He who plants kindness gathers love.”

Mattia Preti, “Saint Veronica and the Veil,” ca. 1655
Mattia Preti, “Saint Veronica and the Veil,” ca. 1655 (photo: Public Domain)

“Mommy, I’m hungry!” 

“Mommy, I can’t find my shoe!”

“Mommy, Ben spilled his milk!” 

“Mommy, there’s somebody at the door!”

The year is 1992. I’m the mother of several young children, and my hands are as full as a Berks County tick. The last thing I need is an unexpected visitor from the Acme grocery delivery service. But there he is at the front door, eager to tell me about Acme’s line of premium quality frozen foods. 

I tell him that I can’t talk just then because I’m busy with the kids.

And he says, “You have kids? Kids love Acme Foods! Here, take this catalog. I’ll be back at 2:00 on Wednesday to pick up your order, okay?”

I accept the catalog and politely thank the Acme man, while making a mental note not to be at home at 2:00 on Wednesday.

One week later, I’m in the kitchen, preparing muffin batter. It is Wednesday. Outside, the rain is pouring down. 

I fill the muffin tin and put the tin into the oven. While the muffins are baking, I write a note: 

Dear Mr. Acme,

I’m sorry, but I don’t have an order for you. The Acme products look great; I just can’t afford them. So … here are some muffins. Just a little something for your trouble. 

Once the baked muffins have cooled, I put them into a paper bag along with the handwritten note. I print the words “For the Acme Man” on a slip of paper, then tape the slip to the bag of muffins and put the bag on the front porch.

Then I gather the kids.

“Come on, kids, we’re going to the playground!”

“But mommy, it’s raining.”

“Don’t be a bunch of wimps. Rain helps you grow. Come on, get into the car.”

We spend an hour on the soggy playground, and when the town clock chimes 2:45, I figure that the Acme man has probably been and gone.

So I pile the kids into the car and then drive back home. I cruise slowly up our driveway, craning my neck to see if the muffins have been picked up. Yes, the bag is gone, and yes, I breathe a sigh of relief. 

But a few days later…

“Mommy, I’m hungry!” 

“Mommy, I can’t find my shoe!”

“Mommy, Ben spilled his milk!” 

“Mommy, there’s somebody at the door! I think it’s the man who was here before!

Sure enough, the Acme man is back. I open the door and find him standing there awkwardly, his knobby hands clutching a cardboard box that’s resting on a blue-uniformed paunch.

“I have a few little things for you,” he says. “Some pot pie and ravioli and, for the kids, some corn dogs and ice cream.”

He proffers the box, then rubs his hands together just to give them something to do.

“I got the muffins you left me. And I just wanted to say thank you. That was the nicest thing that anyone ever did for me.”

It’s been almost 30 years since the Acme man came to our door. I don’t remember what the man looked like, or what name was on his I.D. tag, or which of his “few little things” we had for dinner that day.

But I remember his words as clearly as if they had just been spoken. And I’ll never forget the lesson they taught me: There is no such thing as an act of kindness that is “too small to matter.” 

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” (Galatians 6:10)