The Milk (Pea Soup) of Human Kindness

Cabbages and Kings

It was tuesday. My wife’s birthday. We were going out for dinner. Could I take her out for lunch too? She said she would like some pea soup. Bingo! I had certificates from a splendid emporium, way across town. Pea soup was on their menu for the day. I really think my wife said pea soup because she knows I like it. Nice wife.

We set out for the other side of town. The weather was inhospitable. The traffic was worse, and the place was hard to find. My wife tells me I’m too impatient. The fact is that we could have found gallons of pea soup on our side of town. When we finally got to where we were going, I discovered that the menu had changed. No pea soup on Tuesdays anymore. Nor would the certificates work. They were for goods in the rest of the store and not acceptable in the deli section. It was turning out to be one of those days!

My wife ordered chicken soup. How prosaic can you get? After struggling to find where we were headed and having fought traffic and bad weather, I wasn’t going to settle for plain old chicken soup. Instead I ordered an exotic south-of-the-border potion that scorched my mouth and made my teeth look like rows of burned briquettes.

A nice lady approached our table. Was I me? The one who wrote in The Banner? I pled guilty. With a mouth on fire I tried not to blow flames in her direction. She said some nice things and disappeared.

Soon she returned with another lady in tow. A dark-haired lady. This time I remembered my manners and stood up. They talked “Cabbages.” I talked bad weather, worse traffic, a hard-to-find place, certificates that didn’t work, and torched tonsils. The ladies were most solicitous. But most people don’t like to hear about other people’s troubles.

Later that day dinner made up for the debacle at noon.

The next morning I was looking out the window and reviewing the day before. Who was that in the driveway, approaching our door? I recognized her. It was the dark-haired lady with whom I had shared my tale of woe. And what was she carrying?

I opened the door. The dark-haired one had made a pot of pea soup for us. She had traveled miles from a suburb across town just to bring an offering of pea soup! It was the day before Thanksgiving, and she had much to do. Suddenly she was gone. In the brief conversational exchange she had mentioned her church. I called the pastor and explained. He knew who it might be. I sent a thank-you note.

What a nice thing for her to do! Every day we read of atrocities, murders, rapes, and robberies. Man’s inhumanity to man, including that brew in the Bible served to a brother by one whose name I bear and filled with the milk of unkindness (Gen. 25:29-34).

What seldom gets reported is man’s humanity to man—the many kindnesses shown in any community during the course of any day. Wayside ministries. Countless courtesies. Thoughtful gestures. Over the years we’ve had others at our doors with assorted soups and stuff.

The next time I sing “Auld Lang Syne” and come to the words “We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,” I’ll think of that dark-haired lady at the door with her elixir of green gold. A cup o’ kindness!

Pea soup!

About the Author

Rev. Jacob D. Eppinga was pastor emeritus of LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, in Grand Rapids, Mich. He went to be with his Lord March 1, 2008. This column concludes his popular “Cabbages and Kings” series, which he wrote for 40 consecutive years. Watch for It’s All Grace, a collection of his best and more recent columns to be published in book form this fall by Faith Alive Christian Resources.
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