This I Believe

Maria - Portola Valley, California
Entered on November 26, 2006

The Power of “Insignificant”

I believe in the power of compassion to change lives. I believe that seemingly insignificant acts of kindness can profoundly impact the way people view the world. Ever since a revelation I had in a movie theatre two years ago, I have attempted to live life based on the idea that helping other people is the noblest accomplishment a person can achieve. As I was getting up from my seat in the theatre I noticed that the person sitting next to me had left their cup in the cup holder. Without thinking, I grabbed the cup and threw it away on my way out. Directly after throwing the cup away I wondered why I had bothered to throw someone else’s cup away. It certainly did not help me in any way. I realized that evaluating my action based on what ways it benefited me was a terrible way to look at what I had done. I thought about the person who’s job it is to clean the theatre and how by throwing away that cup I had made his/her job just a tiny bit easier. Even though the cleaning person will never know that they cleaned up one less cup it does not change the fact that I made another person’s life easier.

I believe that if I continue performing miniscule acts of kindness that don’t hurt me and do help someone else, eventually one of my insignificant acts of kindness will happen to the right person at the right time to have life-changing effects. Imagine a person who is down on life and believes the world is against them. Something as small as a smile and a nod could potentially replenish that person’s hope and trust in the idea that they are not worthless. The smile and the nod will take nothing away from me but it can give everything back to the person who needs it.

I believe it is human nature to view the world in a self-focused way, but I also believe that once we recognize our single-minded tendencies we can easily break free from them and in the process make life more enjoyable for the people around us. What I believe in are not grandiose inspirational acts of generosity, but the little things that generally go un-noticed. I believe in letting my little sister take the front seat. I believe in not rushing for the last cookie in the jar. I believe in holding the door open. I believe in high-fives. I believe in washing dishes. I believe in picking up dropped papers. I believe in smiles. I have never worked in the peace corps or held a seat in congress, but every day I have the opportunity to move someone one step closer to happiness, this I believe.