I am standing in a wooded clearing full of seated people, under the Florida pines, when the boy asks me if I’d like his seat.
It is a scouting event for my daughter and the awards will begin at any moment. People are crammed onto wooden benches around a fire pit in the early morning sun. The air is cool and fresh, and the cicadas are already buzzing.
I have no idea where to sit. I don’t know many people yet, and even as a grown woman, in crowds of new people I still struggle with overwhelming shyness. I used to compensate for this with huge quantities of coffee and fake (and slightly spastic) cheer, but in recent years I’ve learned to dial down the caffeine, stop pretending, and be quieter and friendly in the one on one way that I am gifted to interact with people. It has given me a lot of freedom and peace to love myself and pursue authenticity.
Now I am scanning the crowd for a spare seat, and while I know that almost anyone in this friendly group will make room for me, the old panic is suddenly there. And then, directly in front of where I stand, on the end of the bench in the back, a teenage boy suddenly swivels around and says Do you want to sit here? I’ll just move up there. He points to the row in front and smiles at me. Okay. I sit gratefully where he was a second before and for some reason, his kind, small gesture so touches me that I am blinking back tears in the sunlight.
We never know who we will impact. And we never know how we will be impacted.
Advertising companies spend millions of dollars in pursuit of impact. Churches are wracking their brains to try to reach this next generation that doesn’t seem interested in church. Restaurants and businesses post messages on their signs designed to speak to people’s hopes, big and small, and bring them inside. Books are written, seminars given, consultants hired, to try to figure out exactly how to impact the human heart in a way that benefits both impacter and impactee.
It seems that this has become a science. Often the reason for impact is self-serving. Perhaps that is why many of us have grown thick-skinned and cynical, hesitating to believe anything good anymore.
But I find that, like most seemingly complicated things in this life, there is usually a simple truth behind all the catchy font.
The smallest things bring real impact. Or maybe they just seem small. Prayer and meals and forgiveness and random acts of kindness. They are quality gestures of care in a world that claims that bigger and more and louder is the way to reach a person’s heart. Perhaps they are God speaking, through and with and to, reaffirming his detailed knowledge of ourselves.
Courtesy is timeless. The extra mile is a life-giving distance, perpetuating itself in others, and inspiring us toward our better purposes. Selflessness speaks volumes.
At least, it spoke to me. And now that teenage boy’s small, warm act has inspired a blog post. And perhaps it will inspire something in you, and then that might be shared with someone in your day, and further and further that kindness stretches. Who knows how far it will stretch.
Perhaps it will go around the world.