You can make a difference.
And I know you want to.
But so many of us hold back because we associate making a difference with some big, grand gesture, like bringing peace to the Middle East, finding the cure for cancer or winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and overlook the fact that we can do good right here. Right now.
You could purchase a gift certificate for a local restaurant and give that as a gift to a neighbor. You are helping a small business stay afloat, and giving your neighbor an evening to remember.
You could volunteer at your local community kitchen or food bank, and bring some non-perishables along to donate. Do it often enough and you’ll form new relationships and new insights about others, and yourself.
Take your neighbor kid under your wing. You know, that kid you’ve known since he was a toddler who just graduated from college? You know he’s struggling to find his first job. Be his mentor, and help him get his start in the world.
Offer to set up a Christmas tree for the elderly widow down the block, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas yourself.
Hold the door open for the pregnant woman pushing the twin stroller through the door at Starbucks.
Allow the guy with the left turn signal flashing to merge in front of you.
Make dinner for your family.
Look people in the eye and listen as they talk. Really listen. And keep your phone in your pocket.
Be the kind of person you’d like to be friends with.
Go out of your way to be of help and assistance.
Right now, you’re saying, “Platitudes! Doesn’t she know what my work is like? I don’t have time to do any of this!”
The 10 seconds it takes to hold the door open for that woman at Starbucks – no skin off your back, huh? You can do that little thing, can’t you?
And by doing so, what do you usher into the world?
For that woman, the awareness that she is not alone fending for herself and her children.
For you, the realization that you have the capacity to help others.
And suddenly the world is not so big and unconnected.
And the world is not populated with enemies.
But by friends.
And your blood pressure lowers to a manageable level.
And you have a smile on your face.
And you have created good by doing one small thing.
At this time of year, there’s a lot of scrambling and purchasing and expectations and unmet expectations and your stress level can be through the roof.
But not if you focus on the little ways you can make a difference in other people’s lives every day.
Put a quarter in someone’s meter.
Buy a Christmas tree from the varsity baseball team so they can travel to the state tournament next spring.
Arrange for Karate lessons for you and your kid.
Hug your wife for no particular reason other than to connect in that moment.
Tell him you love him.
Tell her you admire her.
Think really small.
Do really big.
[photo courtesy: Grace Woodward]