A little bit can make a big difference

There are times when I am just going about my daily business of life when suddenly I look at something [that I’ve looked at a hundred times before] and it speaks to me.  Of course, since it is an inanimate object, it doesn’t actually talk, but that is how it feels…forcing me to see it in an entirely different light.  Maybe that is the writer in me; I find it hard to take anything at face value, but I suspect it has happened to most people at least once.

This pathetic little plant I have in my kitchen right next to the sink spoke to me this morning.  Early yesterday, as I was rinsing my coffee cup, I noticed my little plant looked like it was on its last leg.  I thought how sad that this plant sits right next to the water spigot and is dying from lack of water. [This is, of course, my one and only plant–my longest living plant ever, that I hang onto because it is all I have left of my ex daughter in law, who I love and miss dearly.]  I keep it next to the sink so I won’t forget to water it–a solution that is obviously not working well. 

So, I immediately gave my little plant a couple of tablespoons of water, hoping it would recover.  This morning, as I was going through my coffee ritual again, I was struck by how healthy my little plant looked…and that is when it spoke to me.  “See how much good even a tiny bit of nurturing can do?”  And then, my mind was off and running…

When you see a homeless person begging on the street corner for money, what do you do?  I have been criticized and ridiculed repeatedly throughout my life because when I get cash, I get extra for these unfortunate people.  I keep it in the console of my car, and if I happen to be stopped at the light where he is imploring for charity, I am prepared to share.

Some people say that he will just use that money to go buy alcohol or drugs. I say, I don’t care what he uses it for.  If drugs or alcohol are the only things left in his world to bring him comfort, what right have I to judge?  Others say that he has a choice–that there are places that will take him in and help him get a job, such as a church.  I say, what if he has a history of abuse from a congregational member and that was the beginning of what became the ruination of his life.  Most recently, I had a friend tell me a story of how he saw a homeless man begging for money for food so my friend went to McDonalds and bought some food for the homeless man.  However, when he presented the food to him, the man refused it saying, “don’t you have any cash?”  This incident ruined him from ever helping again, with the assumption that all seeking help would have responded the same way. I don’t think we should ever judge every person over one person’s actions.

Can you imagine a world where everybody did a little bit extra, just because they could?  Not because they wanted to control the outcome, needed an acceptable reason, or required appreciation, but quite simply because they could.  What if generosity was the norm and not the exception?  Where people would take every usable item they no longer needed, to a charitable outlet instead of putting it on the curb for ‘large trash pickup’ day where it is crushed in the garbage truck?

Perhaps I am more sympathetic because there was a time in my life when I was penniless and had to rely upon the kindness of strangers.  After I was deserted with four children in a strange state, where they wouldn’t hire an outsider [ no job and no income];  I found out exactly what desperation feels like.  Thankfully, my oldest daughter was a softball phenom and her coach gathered random people to help us; people we didn’t know gave to a collection to pay my rent, buy us groceries and gave us winter coats (we had just come from California).  Everything I have rebuilt my life to in the past 19 years began with the kindness of strangers.  Believe me, nobody wanted to help us in smalltown Pennsylvania.  They would have preferred we go home to California.  But, they did help…and look at the lives we live now.

Each of us has in us the ability to make a difference.  We don’t even have to think about it very hard to make it happen.  Just put a little tic in your mind, ‘do more’…it doesn’t have to be a lot more, just a little more.  Make the effort to borrow someone’s pickup truck to take that gently used sofa to the Goodwill where a woman who has finally escaped her abuser can afford furniture for her new, safe home.  When you go to the bank, get an extra $20 in five dollar increments and stick them in your glove box, to hand out at four separate times.  Or when you go to the store and find a good sale, pick up an extra and drop it by the food bank or local mission.

Challenge yourself today to just do a tiny bit more than you normally would.  It might not be money, or food, or household goods; it might just be a change in your actions.  But do it.  Change the world, a little bit at a time.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson



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