This I Believe

Alessa - Atlanta, Georgia
Entered on August 10, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe in doing the small things. My experiment in the power of small began as a New Year’s Resolution four years ago. I determined that I would go just barely out of my way to make a difference and see what would happen. What did happen was surprising because I became a happier, more fulfilled person. More than overt displays of goodness- like volunteering for causes and donating to charity- which are, of course, amazing but require a commitment not everyone has, doing the small things was something I really could do, as a permanent lifestyle change.

I think one of the biggest small things I can do is to smile at the fellow human beings I come in contact with. It is impossible to smile at someone and not feel happier myself. It’s not a huge deal to ask the cashier how his or her day has been. It takes a few seconds that I am waiting there anyway. There are hundreds of people who they deal with on daily basis who are indifferent, impatient and oftentimes cruel- I can surprise them with my kindness and interest. Simple gestures of compassion are rare nowadays, but as vital as ever. You stand out by making the tiny efforts. To do the small stuff is to remember that we are all in this life together, sharing the same struggles, being more alike than different.

It is incredible how easy it was to make a difference when I started consciously doing the small stuff. It is, after all, small. But if we all do the small stuff then soon the sum of our collected acts of little good deeds create a better world. And that is a big thing. I do not have to go out of my way to plant a forest to help the environment. I can do it by picking up a piece a trash that I could have chosen not to notice out of the corner of my eye, or turn off a light that I could leave on rather than walk a few extra steps. It is taking responsibility as a world citizen, not to push the task onto someone else who may or may not come along to do it. Doing the small things has forced me to live with greater deliberation and compassion, and to realize my profound affect on the world.

Mother Teresa said “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” I believe this is true and that the world could be vastly improved by everyone doing their small things. Indeed, it is all we can do. I have never regretted doing a small thing since my experiment began and it has truly become the doctrine which I follow. You never know how it could change someone’s day, or indeed, someone’s life.