Monday, December 8, 2008

It's the Little Things

There is a tendency in our culture to be in a hurry. To be so focused on our own concerns and worries that sometimes we neglect those around us. I’m as guilty as anyone else with regard to this unfortunate state of mind, but I am learning the importance of reaching out in small ways to help others whenever I can.

I put this to the test the other day. I had driven down to a Utah village to run several errands before the wintry storms make traveling through the canyons entertaining. My list of things to accomplish was long. There were numerous items to be found and purchased in my quest to be ready for the upcoming holidays. Since my oldest son lives in this fair city, he went with me to assist on my big day of shopping.

We ventured to a fabric store where I was hoping to find satin binding for a couple of blankets I’m making for a certain new granddaughter. In our haste to enter the store, I realized I had left a card in the car that contained the measurements needed. Calling myself not nice names, I exited the store to find that card. It didn’t take long to locate this item and upon my return to the store, I noticed an older woman was approaching behind me. She was limping, walking with the aid of a cane. I paused, sensing she might need some assistance. Two or three people gave me disgruntled looks, walked around me, and hurried into the store. I continued to wait, then held the door open for this good woman. She smiled and thanked me profusely, giving me a much-needed warm fuzzy. This small act of service didn’t take much time. But as I considered how long it would have taken her to manage things on her own, I was struck by how much a simple thing on my part had helped.

As the day progressed, there were other opportunities to render aid. Some came in surprising forms. We entered a one-stop shopping type of store where I found numerous items that were on my list of things to buy. Included were several baking ingredients I will be using in the days ahead as I make holiday candy and cookies. When it came time to check out, the lines at the front of the store were long. But this gave me a chance to spend some time visiting with my son as we waited. We had a good visit, and then it was our turn to empty our cart onto the checkout counter.

I noticed that the clerk was an older woman who looked extremely tired. Figuring it had been a long day for her, I then observed her nametag. She possessed the same name as my mother. Since this is an unusual name (Genevieve) I commented on how pretty it was. She smiled and thanked me, stressing that it was unusual. I shared that my mother had been given this same name. We visited about the challenges of learning to spell such a name in the first grade as this good woman continued to ring up the items I was purchasing that day. Her countenance changed. And when a silly bottle of molasses leaked on her scanner (son # 2 dearly loves homemade ginger-chip cookies) she didn’t complain. She hurriedly cleaned things up and told me she would buzz for someone to replace that item. Knowing that other people were impatiently waiting in line behind me, I declined her offer, but thanked her for her willingness to go the extra mile on this. She was still beaming when we left the store.

My son commented on how our brief conversation had seemed to help this woman. It hadn’t taken much effort on my part, and very little time to make that difference. We talked about how important it is to be kind and considerate, realizing that everyone is struggling in today’s troubled world.

A few minutes later as we drove on to our next stop, my son stopped the car and graciously allowed someone who was trying to pull out from a nearby parking lot a chance to enter traffic. This person waved and smiled their gratitude at my son’s thoughtfulness. Again, it hadn’t taken long to render a small act of service that may have altered someone’s mood for the better. (We ignored the honking behind us.)

I suspect these are the things that will really matter someday. I seriously doubt I will be lauded for my shopping skills while in mortal mode, nor the holiday baking. What will be called into account will the times I neglected to help someone when the opportunity presented itself. We’re all busy, we’re all stressed. It seems to be a current theme of our day. But we can make a huge difference in the lives of others if we so choose. Small acts of selfless service are truly the best way we can emulate the example set by our elder Brother. In my opinion, this is the best way to honor His upcoming birthday. So my challenge is this: as we all hustle and bustle to get ready for the days ahead, take a look around. It doesn’t cost a cent to be gracious, to smile, to be patient, or to simply hold a door open for someone who needs it. These little acts of service won’t hinder us in our daily quests, but they just might make all the difference in the world to people who need a small boost.

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Cindy Beck said...

What you've said is so true. We just never know when a kind word or a smile might make all the difference to someone.

Thanks for the reminder of what life (and the Christmas season) is all about.

Oh, and thanks, too, for stopping by my blog and commenting on, "Colder Than an Eskimo's Wallet." Loved your story about starting a fire with stuff up the chimney! :0)

Cheri J. Crane said...

Hi Cindy. Glad you liked the blog. I enjoyed yours, too. =) And, yep, you can be sure that I always check the chimney before lighting a fire. I learned my lesson. ;)