As we walked out of the restaurant, we came face to face with a woman whom I didn't recognize at first. I was still wondering who she was as my husband hugged her. Then she embraced me. I finally realized we had done childcare several years ago for a member of her family. She turned to the friend she was with and praised our childcare. Then she went on to tell her friend about a time she was having a really tough day. She had dropped off her little charge to our care, and came to pick him up at the end of the day not feeling much better. We had made "double dinner", and placed a whole roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and veggies into a disposable pan for her to take home to her family for dinner. It was an act long forgotten by us, but one that she held onto. "I couldn't have done one more thing that night", she remarked. One small action had a lasting effect. I have been the recipient of many small acts. All have had a lasting impact. When I was14, my parents and I went to a movie. It was a rare time out, as money was tight. My dad had been laid off from his job, and my mother was plagued with near constant headaches and nausea that turned out to be a brain tumor. We got in line to buy our tickets, and realized that the price had gone up since we'd last seen a movie. A quick assessment of pockets and purses turned up no extra cash. A man behind us, a complete stranger, realized what was happening and offered to make up the difference in the cost. My parents, being proud, declined his offer. The man, kindly preserving our dignity said: "look...the price went up and you didn't bring enough money to cover the cost. Please let me help you. You don't need to pay me back, but here's my address if you want to." My father took the slip of paper and the money and we thanked the man for his kindness. I'm sure he had no idea that his small act provided an oasis in a very stormy time for us.
To do great things, even with great love can feel daunting. There is huge responsibility in recognizing a need and striving to meet it. Hunger, homelessness, illness and violence all seem too great for love to conquer. I like to envision small acts of kindness commited with great love as rivers that will eventually flow out into those oceans of despair. Hope, healing and peace can sometimes be unearthed by simply caring enough to scratch the surface.