Every little bit helps.

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Can you remember a time when you saved the day? Maybe you were able to help someone cover the cost of groceries when they came up short in line. Maybe you gave someone the Heimlich maneuver. Maybe you swerved to avoid a collision. Or maybe something less dramatic like saying a kind word to someone feeling blue.

In this charming video, a banker catches ducklings jumping off a ledge to get to their mother waiting below. Without him to help, they most likely would have been hurt. After all 12 are safe, he, and much of the town who have gathered to watch the rescue, lead the little duck family down a parade route to a nearby river. A modern Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, and the kind of story that can make all of us feel a bit better about the state of the world.

Helping others reminds us that we matter, that we are here for a reason, and that the world would be a darker place without us in it. That’s as helpful to us as to those we help. Win-win.

What’s the little bit you can do today?

Make a ripple.

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In “Sound of Thunder“, Ray Bradbury introduced the idea that one tiny butterfly could have a far-reaching ripple effect on later historical events:

In the year 2055, time travel has become a practical reality, and the company Time Safari Inc. offers wealthy adventurers the chance to travel back in time to hunt extinct species such as dinosaurs. A hunter named Eckels pays $10,000 to join a hunting party that will travel back 65 million years to the Late Cretaceous period, on a guided safari to kill a Tyrannosaurus rex. As the party waits to depart, they discuss the recent presidential elections in which an apparently fascist candidate, Deutscher, has been defeated by the more moderate Keith, to the relief of many concerned. When the party arrives in the past, Travis (the hunting guide) and Lesperance (Travis’s assistant) warn Eckels and the two other hunters, Billings and Kramer, about the necessity of minimizing the events they change before they go back, since tiny alterations to the distant past could snowball into catastrophic changes in history. Travis explains that the hunters are obliged to stay on a levitating path to avoid disrupting the environment, that any deviation will be punished with hefty fines, and that prior to the hunt, Time Safari scouts had been sent back to select and tag their prey, which would have died within minutes anyway, and whose death has been calculated to have minimal effect on the future.

Although Eckels is initially excited about the hunt, when the monstrous Tyrannosaur approaches, he loses his nerve. Travis tells him he cannot leave, but Eckels panics, steps off the path and runs into the forest. Eckels hears shots, and on his return he sees that the two guides have killed the dinosaur, and shortly afterward the falling tree that would have killed the T. rex has landed on top of it. Realizing that Eckels has fallen off the path, Travis threatens to leave him in the past unless he removes the bullets from the dinosaur’s body, as they cannot be left behind. Eckels obeys, but Travis remains furious, threatening on the return trip to shoot him.

Upon returning to 2055, Eckels notices subtle changes – English words are now spelled and spoken strangely, people behave differently, and Eckels discovers that Deutscher has won the election instead of Keith. Looking at the mud on his boots, Eckels finds a crushed butterfly, whose death has apparently set in motion a series of subtle changes that have affected the nature of the alternative present to which the safari has returned. He frantically pleads with Travis to take him back into the past to undo the damage, but Travis had previously explained that the time machine cannot return to any point in time that it has already visited (so as to prevent any paradoxes). Travis raises his gun, and there is “a sound of thunder”.

Bradbury’s genius in considering how small seemingly insignificant changes can alter the future has, of course, become a standard sci-fi plot device. But how about applying the principle to the present. What can we do now to ensure a better future for us all? We can’t possibly know the effect of the small acts of kindness we do each day. But we do know that one kind act leads to another, ever onward, each person touched by kindness more likely to pass it on, creating an entire chain, then web, outward, expanding farther and farther as it goes. That ever-expanding ripple of kindness can perhaps circle the world if we could only track it.

In this heart-warming, and tear-jerking (in a good way) video, one man discovers just how powerful a little gesture of kindness can be.

What can you do today to start ripples everywhere you go?

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Love them anyway.

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People are complex. They can be hateful, vile, untrustworthy, destructive, and yet God loves them. The people doing the worst things in the world challenge us to reach into ever deeper places in our hearts to pull out compassion and love. Yes, even for them. Even for those acting in the most depraved ways, for don’t they need love the most? Haven’t they, perhaps, been the most starved for love in their lives?

The quote above is similar to this one attributed to Mother Teresa:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

            If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

            If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

           If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

            What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

            If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

            The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

         Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

         In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

It is different, though, in some interesting ways that seem particularly applicable to the world these days:

The Paradoxical Commandments

by Dr. Kent M. Keith

  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
    Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
    Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
    Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
    Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
    Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
    Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
    Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

The point in both, of course, is that we each have an inner compass. We each are called to be different from the crowd. To be trustworthy and loving, patient and peaceful, kind and helpful. It doesn’t matter what everyone else might be doing,

Give the world the best you have anyway.

Loving the unloveable.

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Who are the people you know who are just, frankly, hard to love? Maybe they’re irascible or mean; maybe they push people away; maybe they are flat out obnoxious. Who are those people? Is there a way for you to love them? Perhaps show them compassion or tenderness? Sometimes the people who least deserve love are the very ones who need it the most.

What’s your story?

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Are you the hero of your own story? What values do you stand for? If you look back at your life, do you see common elements–honesty, maybe, in the face of temptation; loyalty to family and friends, even when they maybe didn’t deserve it, strength of character?

If your life were a novel, what would be the turning points, the challenges? Who or what are the antagonists that fought you? How did you, as the main character, grow? Are you someone a reader would root for if they knew all your inner secrets?

Or, maybe, you’re not a traditional hero at all. Maybe, even, you’re a villain. Do you look back and see deceit, betrayal, unfaithfulness, selfishness?

Be honest here. No one is looking.

It never hurts to take a self-check and make sure you’re on the right trajectory to be the hero of your own story. No matter what, your life is– and don’t forget this– telling a story. Is it the story you were put on this earth to tell, or have you wandered off course?

In the case of St. Teresa quoted above, her life told a story of joy and faithfulness, even in abject poverty and working among the sick and dying. Her life told a story bigger than herself, of hope and meaning beyond the mundane. She was a hero.

What is your story?