You’re likely to be disappointed if you hope to be rewarded for your act of kindness. If, however, you act with kindness simply because it’s the right thing to do, many positives can come from it.
You’ve already benefited from your good deed, via the knowledge that you have partnered with Hashem in helping to make the world a better place. In addition, if the recipient of your act of kindness benefits from it, you reap joy in the positive difference you’ve made. And then there’s the fact that the more you help others, the better you become as a person.
There are other rewards as well for the person who acts kindly. It might be unclear as to how, when, and from whom the reward will come. But that doesn’t really matter, for the simple act of kindness should be the reward itself. Anything more in the form of a reward is gravy.
And if one does receive a well-earned reward some time after the act, all the more satisfying it is. After all, the passage of time decreases one’s expectation of being thanked.
A few examples: From about the ages of 10-14 my Uncle Dave, may he rest in peace, spent many fun times with me. A special treat was when he took me to a baseball game. At one Phillies game in my home city of Philadelphia, we were sitting way up in the grandstands and a foul ball was hit our way. With the crowd standing, my uncle caught the ball (he was the tallest person among the fans). I was so proud of him and thrilled when he gave me the ball. I passed the ball to curious fans, who viewed it like a precious gem. When they returned it to me, my prized friendship with Uncle Dave was cemented.
Years passed, and I made new friends and acquired new interests. I became very busy at my managing editor’s job for a trade magazine, and thus had less time to spend with my uncle.
I heard that my uncle had entered the hospital for major surgery and I wanted to visit him. Wanting to bring him a gift in order to express my warm feeling for him, I pondered what gift to give him.
The night before I was to see him I brought my glove to a Phillies game, hoping to catch a ball. Having never caught one before, maybe that night would be my night.
And sure enough, I caught a ball hit in batting practice!
I was overjoyed, and looked forward to describing my experience with friends.
But more important, I wrapped the ball in a gift box to give to Uncle Dave the next day during my hospital visit.
“What’s this?” he asked. “A little gift,” I said. “Oh, you didn’t have to bring anything,” he said. “I wanted to,” I responded.
When he opened the box and saw an official National League baseball inside, he asked me where I got it. “I caught it at last night’s Phillies game,” I told him. “So why are you giving it to me?” he asked. My answer: “Don’t you remember, when I was 10 you caught a ball at a game and gave it to me?” Looking at the ball, Uncle Dave smiled. It took a long time to repay him for his kindness to me – but better late than never.
Years later, living in Midwood, Brooklyn, I took a Yiddish class in Boro Park. I drove a woman in my neighborhood, taking the same class, roundtrip – which earned me her husband’s gratitude, as he was able to spend more time in kollel. After the class ended, I didn’t see the couple for a number of years. I assumed they moved out of the neighborhood.
Long after that Yiddish course ended, my wife and I were invited to a Shabbos Sukkos meal. Right after davening, we went to our hosts’ home, so as not to keep them waiting. But they had yet to return home from shul, going instead to a post-davening Kiddush in shul. So we waited by their house. And we kept waiting.
By now hot, thirsty and hungry, I decided to ask the first religious person I saw if we could join them for Kiddush until our hosts arrived. Despite being very uncomfortable doing this, I made my request to a religious man with two young children. He was happy to oblige, and my wife and I joined him and his children in the short walk to his sukkah.
The man looked familiar. Finally, I realized that this was the man whose wife I had driven to the Yiddish class years earlier. Now living in the neighborhood we were visiting, he was able to repay me for having once given him more time to learn.
Everyone should enjoy doing acts of kindness – for its own merit. And if fortunate to be rewarded in return, all the better.