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Feeling a little overwhelmed with the world right now?

Updated: Jan 24

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t

change the world.

For indeed, that’s all who ever have."

Margaret Mead

My husband Tim did a special magic show recently for a man named Clyde. Clyde and his extensive family were gathered from around the country to celebrate his 103rd birthday. While he presided over the festivities from his wheelchair, Clyde didn’t let age rob him of the twinkle in his eye, or a second helping of cake.

“There was something about him. He was just so full of life,” Tim shared with me later. “I’m sure he’s been asked a thousand times, but I had to ask him, “What’s your secret? Not just to a long life, but to a long, happy life.’”

Clyde didn’t hesitate.

“Every day we have a new chance to make a difference in the world, no matter how big or how small. We are either helping, or we’re hurting. By doing nothing to help, we’re not using our gifts, and that’s hurting. Every night before I go to sleep, I ask myself, “Clyde, did you leave the world a little bit better today than how you found it?”

Did you leave the world a little bit better today than

how you found it?

That’s a great litmus test, isn’t it? The happiest people I know are also some of the busiest, and yet they find time to care, to give, to pay it forward. We can’t control the world, but we can control how we move and respond within our own sphere of influence, no matter how small or large our contributions may seem at the time.

My friend Bob volunteers his time and energy at an animal rescue called “Starfish.” They transport animals from high kill shelters into their hub in the Chicago area, where they are bathed and vetted, and then transported to other shelters or foster homes until they find a permanent home.

“Why do they call the rescue group ‘Starfish?’” I asked, “Because they have arms like a starfish that reach out to so many other shelters?”

“Well, that’s true,” he agreed. “But the real inspiration for the name was that old story of the boy with the starfish on the beach.”

I must have looked puzzled, because he elaborated.

“One day a man was walking along the beach and came across a young boy. It had just stormed, and there were hundreds of starfish washed up on the shore. He watched for several minutes as the little boy painstakingly picked up starfish, one at a time, and threw them back into the ocean. Finally, the man said, “You know, there are hundreds of starfish here. More than you can ever save. You can’t make a difference.” The little boy bent down and picked up another starfish, tossing him gently into the tide, “I can for this one.”

We affect other’s lives in ways we may never know.

I was fortunate to land with parents who valued thoughtfulness and giving back to their community and friends. While I’ve tried to carry those values forward in life, my experience with cancer ratcheted up my focus. It’s just really important to be kind. Some people wear their struggles and battle scars visibly. But for most of us, it’s an inside job.

What if we just assumed and acted as if everyone is

struggling with something?

We might respond more graciously, more kindly, more gently. Our softer hearts and subsequent actions would soften the hearts of others. And they would, in turn, might act more charitably towards others.

Our world has become even louder, more frenetic, more tumultuous. It’s easy to slide into a feeling of helplessness,

“I’m one person. What can I possibly do?”

What if, instead, we flipped the question:

“I’m one person. What can I do that’s possible?”

There are so many ways we can acknowledge and respect our neighbors and those around us:

  • Listen and be present when talking with another, look into their eyes

  • Be over-the-top generous with your time, insight, expertise

  • Hold the door for the person behind or in front of you

  • Say Please and Thank you. A lot

  • Wave the car on in front of you

  • Pull your neighbor’s trashcan out of the street on trash pick-up day

  • And while you’re there, pick up that stray piece of litter

  • Take a meal to someone who is going through a tough time. And spend time with them

  • Send a heart-felt note

  • Leave a text voicemail just to let someone know you are thinking of them

  • Leave a friend’s favorite flowers, or fresh oranges, or anything that reminds you of them in a special way, on their doorstep

  • Teach someone, mentor another

  • Keep pace with the person you’re with so you walk, jog, skate, skip - together

  • Leave a note on your loved one’s car windshield or under their pillow before taking that business trip

  • Offer to drive an older person to the doctor, or grocery store. Or pick up groceries for them while you are there anyway

  • Give, serve, help, contribute

The list is endless.

Love is a verb.

Kindness doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost anything. But it does takes intention and attention and action. And with a little more of each, we will leave the day, and the world, a little bit better than how we found it.

What good will you do in your world today?

Happiness is a constant decision.

On any day, at any moment, we can decide.


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