“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” These words, spoken by Mother Theresa, are in my opinion what life should be all about. Everyone has the desire to be loved. It has been said many times over that the greatest feeling in the world is to love and be loved in return. I agree; however, I’m not talking about boy-girl love. I’m talking about the love for others— the love that is powerful enough to change the lives of others; the kind of love that is passed on by kindness, patience, and a willingness to help.
In ninth grade, I became involved at my church. Throughout these last three years, I’ve seen more lives changed by small acts of kindness than I ever thought possible. This past summer, my youth group went on a mission trip to Lexington, Kentucky. I was put in an incredible group of six teens that was assigned to help at a daycare for kids whose mothers were finishing college and whose dads had either died or left them. At first I thought, “Well this won’t be a huge deal. It’ll be fun, I’ll play with some kids, and then I’ll be on my way home before I know it.” I wasn’t expecting anything emotional or life-changing, but as usual, God quickly proved me wrong and surpassed my expectations by a long shot. On our first day at the daycare, one of the kids in my group, Patryk, and I were assigned to help with the three year olds. Not surprisingly, I quickly became attached to all of the kids. I met one little girl, Hailey, who was extremely shy. I honestly still believe that like many of the other kids at the daycare, something was wrong at her home. At the beginning when we first arrived, she wouldn’t even make eye contact with Patryk and me. It was so amazing to see how as the day went on and we kept playing with her and including her in our games, she opened up and was just as boisterous as all the other kids. As wonderful as it was to see Hailey open up to us, the most incredible part of my mission trip came on our third and fourth days at the daycare. While the rest of our group made bracelets to give all of the kids the next day, Olivia and I were told to help put the four year olds to sleep. The teacher told me to put this beautiful little girl, Arianna, to sleep. When I walked over to her spot on the floor, I noticed she wasn’t asleep. I sang to her as the teacher was doing with one of the other kids on the other side of the classroom, and she eventually closed her eyes. Then, she suddenly started talking to me. She opened up to me and told me many things about herself such as her favorite stuffed animals and the preschool drama about who is friends with who. We talked for a long time and I became extremely attached to her. The next day, the teacher asked me to put Arianna to sleep again, but she still wouldn’t sleep. We talked again, but this time she opened up to me about her home situation. She told me that she had never met her daddy and that her mom’s boyfriend would always hit her and call her stupid. As she told me all this, I was so surprised to see that a four year old would have to go through all of this. Mostly I couldn’t believe how naïve I had been to think that something like this could never happen to a four year old. Olivia and I told the teacher about what Arianna had told us, and although I haven’t been told what happened after that, I truly hope things changed for the better. I think the most touching thing that was said to us that week was when the teachers told us that we were miracles. “It’s as if you brought God in here with you,” one of them said.
My group was able to see so many miracles happen at that daycare this summer. It was so incredible to me to see how these small acts of kindness, such as when we included them in our games or simply sat with them and listened to what they had to say could make them so happy. On our last day there, when we had to say goodbye, many of the kids cried and we got tons of hugs. Surprisingly, I found myself not being able to say goodbye to my group and especially to the kids without crying either; while I thought I would be the one bringing joy to them, I got so much more than I ever would have expected from them as well. It was obvious to all of us that we had made a difference in the lives of these kids who so rarely received the love they deserved; it was even more obvious to all of us that they had changed us in return. It was extremely touching, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I believe that small acts of kindness and love are what can really change the world. As Ralph Waldo Emerson clearly put it, “To know that one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”