Maybe They Do…

Do simple acts of kindness make a difference?

Photo: Laura Pegg

Photo: Laura Pegg

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.

Photo: Laura Pegg

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.

I know that my green-thumbed efforts won’t change poverty statistics, drug abuse, or homeless rates. Maybe this day will never even means anything to anyone at any time.

Photo: Laura Pegg

Photo: Laura Pegg

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.



  1. I was a part of a team that went to New Orleans a few years after all the damage was done by the storm and many people had forgotten how broken it still was there. All I (and the few people in my group) did was paint an underpass that served as a playground for kids, but at the end of the week the people who set up the event said that the four hours each person (33,000 individuals from all over the country) worked equaled 4 years worth of work. Your work is important and DOES make a difference 🙂

    1. Lauryn… Thank you for the comment. That is a great story they shared with how much effort the different volunteers contributed. It puts a meaningful, tangible spin on the efforts. What organization did you work with in New Orleans? I volunteered with Katrina Corps in 2007 repainting schools damaged by Hurricane Katrina ( The experience, especially how “broken” the city seemed, resonates with me today.

      1. I can’t remember what the name of the organization was, but it was open for church groups mainly. There was a religious tone and services after every work day. We met in the dome for our “meetings”. During one service we were all asked to share a moment of silence for everyone who suffered in the dome during the rescue efforts, and I can honestly tell you that being in a room with 33,000 people and having everyone of them be silent for a whole minute was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced! Wish I could do it again 🙂

        1. Thanks for sharing. What a beautiful image and contrast to the chaos that existed inside the Superdome. For different, but similar reasons, I agree that my New Orleans trip was one of the coolest things I experienced. Thanks again for commenting!

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