“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
~ Mother Teresa
On my first trip to the Dominican Republic, I was planning on saving the world. Not literally of course, but as a brand-new nurse, I was bound and determined to make a positive impact on the world around me. My goals were lofty and unrealistic, and I soon discovered this. After my week in the D.R., I was unsure if anyone even remembered my name from our group, let alone if I had made a difference in the country. I felt discouraged and inadequate. Looking back, I’m not sure what I was expecting. I bet most of you can relate. I bet at some point in time, you too thought you would change the world with a brilliant idea or benevolent action. Maybe some of you have, and that’s great. However, I think the majority of us have had a greater impact with smaller, seemingly insignificant things we do each day.
Recently I was reminded that we are constantly impacting the world around us. Usually it’s not with grand gestures, but simply with the little things in life. This fall at the guesthouse, we have had some amazing teams. Teams who display servant hearts. Teams who are flexible. Teams who are willing to help, despite being exhausted from a week of work. Teams who encourage, inspire, comfort and empower those around them. I’d like to share stories from two individuals who are proof that small gestures of kindness can leave lasting impacts.
The first story comes from my new friend Stacey. My first encounter with Stacey was hearing her say, “Smile” as she snapped pictures with her phone. Members of her group informed me that she was the “picture lady.” As I got to know her more, I learned each year when she visited, she would bring pictures from the year before. She would go out into the community and pass them out, finding each individual in the picture, and showing them they were remembered and were important to her. Last year, Stacey was out in a barrio when a man grabbed her hand and lead her to his house. The entire time, he spoke in rapid Spanish to her, with her understanding very little of what he was saying. Once they arrived at the man’s house, he asked his wife to come out and get a photo together. She snapped a picture, visited a while longer, and went on her way. This year she returned to the D.R. with a framed picture of the couple. As she made her way through the barrio, she found the wife from the picture. The wife began talking to Stacey, but Stacey did not understand. After finding someone to translate, Stacey found out that the woman’s husband had passed away this March. The man had known he was sick when Stacey took the picture last year. Stacey gave the picture to the woman and she began to cry. The woman was so appreciative of the gift. Stacey had given this woman more than a picture; she gave her a lasting memory with her husband.
The second story takes place in La Florida up in the mountains. A church group spent the week in the community pouring concrete floors in homes. During one of the breaks, a team member, Matt, sat and watched as kids played around them. Seeing some extra plywood laying nearby, Matt decided to make a fort for the kids. It was three simple pieces of plywood, but to the kids, it was a mansion. Every so often, Matt rearranged the wood to make different forts. He would pound on the “roof” of the fort, pretending there was thunder. He would help the kids straighten their floor mats, which were used rice bags. The kids’ laughter carried through the barrio, making the adults gather around to see what was happening. One simple act of kindness brought laughter and joy to an entire community.
I want you to read the opening quote again: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Maybe you are in a position to make a huge impact. If you can’t, that’s ok. Start small. We are surrounded by people. People with different backgrounds, different needs, different hopes and dreams. One simple act of kindness could change their life forever. Think about the people you encounter every day: at work, at school, at home, at the store, in the car, etc. What would it look like if we took a few moments out of our day to invest in these people? To show them we care. To share a smile or encouraging word.
I’m hoping these stories inspire you like they have me. We don’t have to change the world, but together we can make a difference.