“We can talk about making a difference, or we can make a difference.” Anonymous

Unknown Power of Simple Acts

Last week, I vented my spleen at the expense of our self- indulgent electorate. I must admit that doing so provided a cathartic benefit for me but probably didn’t change the hearts and minds of our elected leaders. I received no calls from my Senators or other Congressmen pledging to do better. Sadly, I’m not surprised by their silence.

There is an old story about a woman walking placidly along the ocean. As she walks, she occasionally picks up a beached starfish, tossing it back into the ocean that magically revitalizes it. A man watches this exercise and reminds the woman, “There must be millions of starfish on this beach, stretching from Maine to the Florida Keys. How much of a difference can you make?” The woman smiles at the man, responding, “ I made a difference for the one I just threw back.”

John F. Kennedy counsels, “We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us thru that darkness to a safe and sane future.” Last week I cursed and chastised the darkness that lives in Congressional halls. This week, it’s all about becoming “candle-lighters and seekers of starfish.” In the powerful little film, “Pay It Forward,” a middle-school-aged boy devises a plan to spread kindness and charity. The best part of this bit of fiction is that we can all play the role of this wise little boy by extending an act of interest, kindness and charity to one troubled person. The boy in the film envisioned a geometric progression of benevolence that could emerge from a single act of kindness.

A dear friend’s phone answering message asks us to “extend one act of kindness to someone today.” How many people take his advice? And how many invisible recipients would benefit from such acts? My friend will never know. And, if you follow his advice, you won’t ever know either.

The downside to all kind, preventative action is that we will never know what we may have prevented. We will never turn on the TV in the morning and see a newsperson report, “Johnny Smith did NOT harm someone last night because of the kindness and concern expressed by Bill Jones a week (or a month, or a year) ago.”  It is truly an act of faith to believe that our simple efforts have huge, rippling positive effects.”

So, do a good deed. Extend a kindness. Take a moment for someone for whom you may represent an unknown turning point. Allow yourself some measure of satisfaction about the impact you’ve made without ever knowing it.

“To make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t have to brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect. You just have to care enough to be there. Anonymous