This I Believe

Justin - Newark, Ohio
Entered on November 28, 2006

The Little Things

One of my dad’s most touching memories resurfaced the other night while talking to him. I’d heard this story involving my brothers and I probably a dozen times before, of course, but I listened enthusiastically nonetheless.

According to my dad, we were much younger – children, really – and were shopping at the grocery store. The three of us were apparently extra obnoxious that day, chasing each other through the isles, and scattering merchandise here and there in the process. In our wild pursuit we rounded one corner all too quickly, and clashed head on with an older lady shopping in the isle over. Before we knew it, our mortified and fuming father had yanked us back; we knew we’d pushed his limits. Embarrassed, he quickly apologized; in no way did he expect the kind words she returned. “Oh, they’re worth it,” she said sweetly, and with a warm smile she walked away.

For some reason, the story meant more to me this time. This time, I could see the effect these simple, but kind words have made on my father. These words, which had left him humbled and speechless at the time, continue to overwhelm him with equal sentiment each time he recalls them.

I believe in small acts of kindness: in words of affirmation (like this woman) or in small acts of service. I am inspired by the powerful difference a friendly gesture can make in the life of another when least expected, such as a warm smile, or when sacrificing an extra 5 seconds to hold the door for someone else. I am awed by the encouraging possibilities in the ordinary, and in putting others first – even if in the smallest way. I rejoice in daily opportunities to put my faith to action and show others they are “worth it”, too.

I try to picture sometimes who this woman really was. She must have been remarkable, I imagine – this woman who impacted my dad, and now me so greatly. I try to set her apart as someone truly unique. Yet the truth is she was a stranger; she could have been anybody. Anyone could have been this person who, instead of reacting in anger (or even indifference, for that matter) to our rowdy behavior, looked at us with love and acceptance. “Kind words,” Mother Theresa said, “can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

Keeping a compassionate attitude and a servant’s heart is not easy. As a Christian, I am constantly struggling with the simple but second greatest commandment to love others as I love myself, and I know it will be a lifelong process. In situations where I feel I’ve been wronged, or even when I’m just having a bad day, it would be much easier to remain irritable and apathetic toward others. Yet as soon as I become absorbed with my own concerns, images of selfless kindness – like that of the convenience store woman – remind me I am called to serve, and my eyes are reopened to the needs of others. And I think if I can be a little more understanding and accepting; if I can serve someone else in the little things, I know I can make a difference. It’s “worth it”; this I believe.