My son is an amazing boy. His enthusiasm at the simplest things, his creativity, his energy, his imagination are inspiring. He has created a world of his own. He lives there, rules his world, and does not realize other people don’t see things they way he does. He has his struggles as well. He has trouble with being impulsive and calming his body. He is always on the go. Most the time he does not realize what is going on around him, oblivious, living in his own magical world I wish I could visit. But once and a while, he has moments of clarity, moments of self awareness, moments where he recognizes this struggle within himself, and becomes self-conscious.
The day portrayed in this picture was one of those days. He was conscious of himself, tried his hardest in his karate class to be aware of his body, to control his motions, to be still when required. It required extraordinary focus on his part. His sensei recognized that, and offered that simple gesture, the fist bump and thumbs up. When my son came to speak to me after class, he was so proud of himself. He said, “Mommy, did you see how good I did? Mr. Current gave me a thumbs up and told me that I rocked!” Those words, that gesture from a master teacher (whom teachers should look to as an example), changed his attitude that day, made him feel a part of something special, recognized and honored his hard work, work that is more difficult for him than for most.
He was beaming. I was so proud and happy for him.
Then something occurred to me. The simple actions? They are just as important, if not more important than the grand gestures in our lives. Many of us feel disengaged from service by circumstances. Lives are busy. Resources are low. Many, including myself, feel that we can never do as much as needed by way of service to those around us in need. But that is all an illusion. It does not require much to make an impact in someone’s life. An encouraging word, a gesture, a motion to hold a hand, a sharing of a meal. The simple things have a huge impact. Grand gestures are just that. They are grand, but they are fleeting. They cannot be sustained. It is those people that stand by you, encourage you, remind you of your importance, accomplishments, who hold your hand in times of need, that have the greatest impact on your life. It is the small smile you give the person on the street, the $5 gift card you hand to a person in dire straits, the acknowledgement of a job well done.
My husband remembers the very first time we met far better than me. I was exiting my dormitory. He was entering. We passed each other at the door. I smiled, looked in his eyes, and said “Hello” in passing. It is something that I do all the time to people I pass on the street. But it struck him as special, as different, made his bad day a bit better. When he retells the story today, he says that most people, women in particular, tend to look away, avoid eye contact, are not gracious enough to even offer a smile, much less a hello. But, he says, that simple action made an impression, changed his attitude that day, and made him want to meet me again.
I love that story.
So, what I have learned in this life, is that the phrase “small actions” is a fallacy, for these small actions are everything. Who knows where these “small actions” lead, how they ripple.
For it is the little deeds that foster big ones, the ones that can change someone’s world.