Starting small to do bigger things.

by Jennifer Dyer

Today I saw a blog post about doing service projects as a family. My¬†first thought was something grandiose–serving Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter or putting together a giant toy drive.

The edges of my heart crumbled. I want my children to understand how to give to others and to serve others, but with Rachel and the big A … sometimes we are the service project. Ugh.

As for doing a big-scale community project? Sounds as easy as walking blindfolded through a barnyard, you know?

Do you ever feel that way? You hear about the great things others do, but you feel as if one more grain of sand at the top of your pile could topple everything.

So … before I got my little chicken feathers in a knot, I stepped back.

First, I was comparing myself to others. Big no-no.

Second, I was thinking on the wrong scale. Why do I start with something huge and defeat myself before I start? Shouldn’t I start small and work my way up?

I thought (and thought) about our family. Have we ever done a service project, all four of us together?

And then I realized… Actually, yes. For the last two years we’ve managed to fill and pack two Operation Christmas Child boxes. Doesn’t sound impressive, but getting Rachel to the store, picking out the items on the list, and keeping her from opening every package and hiding the contents in her ball pit is a victory. At least in my not-so-normal world.

True, Rachel got concerned when we left the boxes at church and tried to grab them several times, but in the end we did it.

I thought about other things that were do-able. Picking up a neighbor’s (or stranger’s) trash can out of the street. Holding a door open for someone? Baking cookies or cupcakes for others. How about smiling at a person who is obviously different from you? Just because it’s not a huge, red-carpet affair doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

Small things can make a big difference.

How about you? What little things have people done for you or have you done for others that warmed your heart?

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5 comments

  1. meghan says:

    In the past I used to take all the leftovers (garbage bags full) from the bagel shop I worked in to the underpasses in Detroit. Every week when I came back, the food was gone and the bags were being used for shelter. Then one day….I quit. I graduated, got a different job and never went back. I wasn’t even there to buy an extra meal for the homeless dudes that hung out on campus. I don’t do much these days, aside from the giving a dude an apple or whatever I have on the side of the road. Mostly I use Kiva to do micro lending in third world countries (people go on trying to build businesses and needs funds to buy another cow, a plow or hire someone to help them weave for oversea orders, many are women). Any time I have a really bad day, I go on and give someone a loan. It’s less rewarding than seeing people’s faces, and the psychological process is surely different than expected forms of altruism, but in principle, I dig it. Give a girl a fish,she eats for a day….teach a girl to fish through spontaneous micro lending and….yeah, maybe it’s a justification for not taking my children to underpasses.

  2. meghan says:

    sounds like you guys are doing some great things! Keep it up!

  3. Jennifer Dyer says:

    Meghan, thanks so much for sharing that wonderful story about the bagels. I am so touched by reading that. I didn’t even know Kiva existed. That sounds like a great way to help others.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Mom says:

    Operation Christmas Child is a great way to help other children. Good activity that comes around each year. It will be interesting to see how Rachel responds each year as she progresses in this chaotic world.
    Another thing you do is have Thanksgiving dinner for your uncle’s family. We all contribute and it is a way to see relatives that otherwise we would never see.
    Lauren, Rachel and you bake cakes for many birthday parties and celebrations.
    Keep up the great ideas.

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