“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one’s self. We must be purposely kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence. The heart that goes out of itself gets large and full of joy. This is the great secret of the inner life. We do ourselves the most good doing something for others.” ~ Horace Mann
Recently I sat with a group of amazing young women talking about how we can be our best selves in this life. We talked about the importance of serving others, even if all we are able to do is the small and simple acts of service. Several shared stories of how the smallest acts of kindness had impacted each of their own lives. I shared a story about an experience I had many years ago: I was newly divorced and had just moved myself and my two small children to our new home. At the time I was incredibly nervous about meeting the people in my neighborhood as they were all happy families and I was the newly divorced single mom. When Sunday came around I went to our local church, still feeling nervous about fitting in when I felt so broken at the time. As I sat in the back of the room a woman came up to me and introduced herself. She had the biggest smile and the happiest laugh. She gave me a huge hug and welcomed me. It was such a small act of kindness on her part, but to me at that point in my life it meant the whole world. She had no idea how broken and scared I was feeling at the time, she couldn’t have. She was just someone being kind to a new girl. But her act of kindness could not have had a bigger impact in my life. Her smile and hug helped me to have hope that I was going to be okay in my life, even if I was on my own as a single mom, she reminded me that I wasn’t alone in my life.
So often in life what seems like the smallest, seemingly inconsequential act can change another person’s entire life. It can provide hope to the hopeless. It can provide happiness to help overcome sadness. It can tell someone they matter when they believed they didn’t matter at all. All it takes is a smile, a compliment, a hug, a helping hand, a kind hello, a warm plate of cookies, a handwritten note…and any one of those small and simple things can change someone else’s world.
After I shared my story one of the other girls in the class shared an experience she had on the opposite side of my story. I am forever grateful to this young lady for sharing this next experience because it was a humbling story that served as an incredibly important reminder to all of us. Her story went like this: She was in school between classes when she noticed that the lunch lady at the school was trying to wipe down the counter and was struggling to reach the other side. The girl watched as the woman struggled and something inside of her said “go help that woman”. But the girl herself was running late to her class and she was struggling to carry her own books while walking with crutches, so she ignored the prompting and went to her class. The girl shared that she had been sick about it every day since it happened as she ignored the prompting to help this lunch lady. Her eyes swelled with tears as she shared this story and she expressed the regret she had that she hadn’t helped this other person. For two weeks it had haunted her. It was such a small and insignificant moment – it wasn’t as if the lunch lady was injured or something serious like that – but it didn’t matter. What this girl was feeling was the pain of regret she felt for not helping someone when her heart told her she should have. She went on to encourage the rest of us to never pass up the opportunity to help someone else in need so that we wouldn’t have to feel the pain of regret she was feeling. WOW! What a deeply personal and impactful moment it was to have her share that experience with us. I honor her for having the humility to share her story and to help use it to teach all of us to pay more attention when we are prompted to help another.
I want to do better in my life to be aware of those moments when I can help another. I want to be better to recognize that all it takes is a smile or a helping hand or a hug, and all of us can give that. All of us. And think how much nicer the world would be if all of us did.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi
Have an amazingly blessed day and keep your eyes open for the opportunities to serve others.