Do simple acts of kindness make a difference?
I ask (and am asked ) this question often because I think in the micro when it comes to giving. The importance of small gestures – the hello’s, thank you’s, how are you today’s – matter to me. I believe in small gifts of meaning, extended conversations, and unexpected offers to help someone else.
Still, I wonder if such acts count in the larger sense? Can something as simple as a good morning wave change the course of a day? A career? A life? Most of the time, we never learn the answer.
Along with other members of the Cleveland Betterment Foundation, I volunteered last Saturday to support the Team Up 2 Clean Up efforts of the 2100 Lakeside Emergency Men’s Shelter. 2100 Lakeside provides beds, meals, showers, and a host of other services to over 350 men per night. The Team Up 2 Clean Up day united shelter residents, volunteers, and neighbors through gardening work, art projects, and other beautification projects in areas surrounding the shelter.
The magic of 2100 is in its people. The stories the men can share, the effort given in the community, the sacrifices made, and the hope cultivated for a future changed from the present. The individuals of 2100, both those seeking help and those offering such help, are making a difference.
I don’t know if I helped all that much, really – pulled weeds, carried trash from here to there, planted several small flower beds and placed them outside second-floor windows. Not life changing work but it satisfied me to play a small role in a larger production of positivity.
Maybe it will, though. Maybe someone’s eye sparks at the sight of red and yellow flowers seen through splotches of mud and dust on a window. Maybe this jolts them from a dreary morning and improves a mood. Maybe the accomplishment of creating change in the neighborhood becomes a call to action for another act of positive work. Maybe these clean-up efforts will help someone smile, clutch to a hint of light while surrounded by darkness.
Maybe simple acts of giving don’t matter at all.
And maybe they do.
I’m simplistic, possibly naïve, because there’s no way of knowing how a day might be changed by the touch of a hand offered to help. Still, in my mind, the possibility of this maybe is all that counts.
And we’ll never know the answer unless we say yes to trying.