This I Believe

Cassie - Decatur, Iowa
Entered on September 6, 2007

My great-grandfather was a remarkable man. He may not have been a leading scholar or a successful businessman, but in many ways he was smarter and richer than any man I have known. Unfortunately, it was not until he passed away that I fully realized this.

When I arrived at my grandpa’s visitation, I began to understand his impact on our community and the immense power of kind deeds. People—some who I knew and many more who I did not—were lined up for hours outside the funeral home to pay their respects. Each person had a story to tell about my grandpa, and each story centered on his generosity and willingness to lend a hand. A pregnant woman described a hot summer afternoon outside in her yard. She was having difficulties trying to get her push lawnmower started. My grandpa happened to be driving by her house and pulled over. Despite having never met this woman before, he proceeded to not only start her lawnmower, but also to send her inside so he could mow the yard for her.

If there ever was a man who knew no strangers, my great-grandfather would certainly and without a doubt fit the description. In his eyes every person deserved to be treated with the same amount of thoughtfulness and respect. Rich or poor, young or old, my grandpa was a friend to all and never expected anything in return. In fact, he would be embarrassed if people made a big deal or tried to repay him for his help. Grandpa never felt he was giving too much or wished he could just write a check to charity. He did not have money to give away freely, but he still felt wealthy because he was able to give of his time and efforts. He found joy in making a new friend or seeing the happiness and relief on the faces of those he helped.

I once heard the saying that “people may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Years later, people may not remember my great-grandfather’s name or all of his kind deeds, but they do remember him fondly for the way he touched their lives.

Because of my great-grandfather, I believe in the power of kindness. With very little effort, one person can make a difference in the lives of countless others. A smile can brighten someone’s day. A compliment lets someone know you care. And an offer of assistance may help ease someone’s burden.

Mother Teresa, famous for her loving kindness once said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” To this day my grandfather lives on in the hearts of those who knew him.