Small Gestures Make a Big Difference

When I was 10 or 11 years old, our family spent many Sunday afternoons skating at the local ice rink. My sister, brother and I took lessons, and then we would skate during the public skate. While my siblings skated and chatted with their friends, I circled the ice looking for black flies, helpless, frozen on the ice. I would pick one up in my mitts, enclose it in warmth, and breathe a little warm air into its temporary cave. After a few minutes, I opened my mitts and it would fly away. Saving flies. ³What¶s the point?´ I heard. ³With millions of black flies, you¶re not really making a difference.´ And I didn¶t think I could make a difference, at least to other people, when I was young. I remember the cool kids in school. I desperately wanted to fit in with them. I tried not to notice that these "cool" kids also had a way of teasing others. They didn't appear to be malicious, but they left others feeling broken by their words. If someone couldn't jump right in with a comeback, they were cut off of the conversation. It felt cold. But how could I make a difference? I never had a quick comeback, as it always felt mean to throw a verbal barb back at someone, even if they'd just done it to me. And I was too meek to rush to someone else¶s defense. I was frozen, a small fly in a big world. When someone I knew was being picked on, I felt torn between wanting to help and feeling my own insecurity and need to fit in. Any words that escaped my tightly gripped lips were jumbled in emotions of nervousness, self-consciousness, and pleading to be nice. And yet, when I skated alone on the ice, surrounded by children enjoying themselves and smiling, I could pick up a lone cold fly, and with a gentle touch and breath, bring it to life. When I wasn't surrounded by school yard expectations, I found clarity in this small task. But I still felt helpless on the playground. However, as I grew, I discovered I could make a difference to others. I could help them with small gestures. In my first jobs this became important. A smile to restaurant patrons. An extra minute with a lone child at the community center. I may not have been effective on the playground, but to that 11 year old, the task seemed momentous. In reality, it is the small steps that make the difference. One step at a time. A moment to stop and help. These days, a smile to busy shoppers, workers and parents seems to make a small difference. Those that don't smile back probably need it the most. If I didn¶t smile, it would go unnoticed in the millions of tasks performed each day. However, it is the effort of a smile that just might make a difference. If I¶d known that at 11, I may have shared more smiles on the playground to those who needed it.

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