Sometimes when I think about how big the world is and how many people are in it, and then how big the universe is and how much left there is to discover, I feel very small. I am just one person, in one place on one planet, in one galaxy in the universe. And when I focus too hard on being that small, it’s easy to feel powerless and inconsequential, as if what I do on a day-to-day basis doesn’t have a huge impact on everything else.
When I think this way, it’s hard to find inspiration to do good things, to show kindness, to dig deep and find empathy, or to reach out to someone who needs help. When you feel small, it’s easy to want to live small. It’s easy to let opportunities for kindness and compassion pass us by. Because what’s the point?
Thankfully, there is always a point. Always a purpose.
And I got a good reminder of that in a recent episode of the podcast, My Unsung Hero.
In the episode titled: Brenda Arnold’s Story, Brenda tells us about a time in the 1980’s when she went to visit her sister in Germany. She arrived on a weekday morning, and got to her sister’s house only to realize that she was at work. Without a cellphone or any knowledge about where she was, Brenda realized she was stuck. She sat down on the front porch, figuring she’d just have to wait there until her sister got home that evening.
As she sat, a few people walked by, asking her questions in German. She shook her head, as she didn’t know any of the language, and continued to sit there, nervous. Then a woman approached her, first speaking in German, but when Brenda again shook her head the woman changed course and asked, in English, if she was alright. Brenda was relieved and explained to the woman her situation.
“Oh no!” the woman said, “Well, would you like to come home with me? I’ll fix you something to eat.”
Brenda was taken aback by her kindness, but graciously accepted.
As they walked, the woman told Brenda that her husband had fought in World War II, and was captured and held in Louisiana as a POW for two years. While there, he was put to work on a farm but was treated very well and given plenty to eat. So when he came home, he told his wife that whenever they came into contact with an American, they would be kind to them.
So Brenda, who had come to Germany almost forty years after this man had come back from the war, reaped the benefit of this kindness. And not just any kindness, but kindness shown to him during an incredibly dark time in history. Kindness that was rare and perhaps unheard of in the throes of war.
And then, that kindness, shown to Brenda forty years ago, inspired me when I heard it on a podcast.
So that one act of kindness, 80 years ago, continues to stretch it arms and dig its roots. It mattered then and it still mattered. Everything we do, every small act of kindness matters.
The world is big, yes, the universe is nearly inconceivable, yes, but you are never small. Your life is never small. Your kindness is never small.