How much do our small acts of kindness matter? As we move through our days, do the encouraging words, small acts of generosity, and the smiles we offer up to strangers and friends matter, except for a fleeting feel good moment? Do they really have a lasting effect on those around us? I may be preaching to the choir. "Of course they do," you are probably saying. However, talk is cheap, and so my question really is if we know that they matter, if we know that they are making a difference, then why do we not look for every opportunity to be intentional about noticing the people in our lives that need our encouraging words, small acts of kindness, and smiles?
When we go through our days absorbed with our to-do lists and focused on ourselves, we miss those golden moments that can change lives. Oh, have I missed so many of those moments, I am sure, but here is one that I did not miss. I was in the checkout lane at Lowe's Hardware store a few months ago. I can't even remember now why I was there, but I will never forget the moment that changed a life forever.
I happened to be wearing a necklace that day that looks kind-of like a square frame. On one side it has a picture of a butterfly. On the other side it has the word breathe. I always wear the word breathe facing out because butterflies really do not have any meaning to me. But oh, do I often feel anxious and have to remind myself to breathe to get through a day. On the morning that I chose to wear that necklace, for some reason, I chose to wear the butterfly facing out. I had forgotten about that necklace as I stood watching the young girl, probably in her twenties, scanning my items.
"I like your necklace," she said. "Thanks," I mumbled, consumed in my thoughts. She talked on. "I love butterflies. They mean alot to me. My dad just recently died, and at his grave site there were all these beautiful butterflies hovering around. Every time I see a butterfly, it reminds me of my dad." She now had my attention, and I was emotionally moved to act. I took the necklace off and handed it to her. She protested, probably never intending for that to happen, but I felt compelled to say, “It is yours. It was always meant for this moment to be yours."
A life was changed that day by one small act. Do you understand what I am saying? That life that was changed that day was mine, maybe hers, but definitely mine. This encounter with a stranger is so ingrained in my head, that I am the one telling you this story.
I will never forget the day that a simple butterfly necklace gave me the power to lift one girl's spirits. It changed my heart forever. It was fun. It made me crave more instances to act in kind ways. Could it be that when I focus on others instead of myself I no longer need to remind myself to breathe?
As you hurry through your busy day, I challenge you to look for those opportunities to say encouraging words, act in small generous ways, and simply smile. You might just change a life. That life you change might just be your own.
Tell me how your experiences of being intentional have changed lives. Was one of those lives your own?