In Loren Eiseley's popular story, "The Star Thrower," a man who often walked along the beach spent hours scooping up starfish and tossing them into the sea before they dried out and died.
Someone asked him, "Why bother? With thousands of starfish and miles and miles of beach, one man could never make a difference." Holding a starfish in his hand, the man simply answered, "It makes a difference for this one."
In Nadia Khristean's song, "One Starfish," a young girl and farmer have a similar conversation. The girl explains that even though we can't help everyone, "there is so much we can do." Many people would argue that small courtesies don't make a difference, but that's just not true. As the song teaches, the seemingly insignificant acts do matter. Here is why:
They soften our hearts
One freezing winter afternoon, I stood frustrated in a grocery store parking lot. The back hatch on my car was drooping lazily and refused to stay up. As I tried unsuccessfully to hold the hatch open with one arm and load groceries with the other, a woman walked up. She cheerfully held up the hatch so I could load my many grocery bags. It was a tiny favor, but it meant the world to me in that moment. This stranger's unexpected kindness melted my heart.
Even the smallest favors, like holding open a door for the person behind you, show goodness and courtesy. We all appreciate such favors. They help us feel respected and valued.
They humble the recipient
Maybe you're one of those independent souls who is hesitant to ever accept help. Don't be a good deed Scrooge! Be a willing recipient. Give someone the opportunity to perform a nice deed. Kind acts enrich the life of the giver, and they help the receiver (you) learn that it's OK to lean on people. Kind acts help you build connections with others.
The next time a friend offers to mop your floors, don't deny her the opportunity. It's a "win-win" — you'll get sparkling new floors and proof that someone cares, and your friend's heart will fill with the joy of service.
They change lives
A mother named Lauren Casper shares the following story. Frustrated by her screaming toddler and baby, Lauren hurried out of a store with her husband and two children in tow. As a white parent to two adopted black children, Lauren normally didn't mind standing out, even with the children's physical and developmental challenges. On this day, though, the tired mom yearned to get home without calling even more attention to her family.
When a store employee called, "Ma'am!" and followed the family to their car, Lauren expected to hear that she'd dropped or left something behind. Instead, a young black woman handed her a bouquet of flowers. The woman explained that she had been adopted as a baby and her life had been wonderful. "We need more families like yours," the store employee said.
This experience boosted Lauren's heart. She said, "On a day when I felt like we were the worst example of a family … a day when I hoped no one noticed us … she did. But she didn't see what I assumed everyone was seeing. She didn't think what I assumed everyone was thinking. She saw beauty and love and hope and family." Lauren continues, "I wish I could go back and tell her, two years later, what her gift continues to mean to me today."
Kind acts also affect our children. Kids soak in their surroundings. Whether parents are givers or recipients of kindness, children are taught by their parents' examples.
The key is to be observant and attentive to those around us. Don't hesitate to pick up your neighbor's garbage or pay for an elderly couple's meal. It sounds naive, but we can all make the world a bit friendlier. Your small act of kindness could brighten a day or change a life.