At the start of a new year, I often think about all the changes I hope to implement in my daily routine as I continue to grow as a person and also contribute positive value to the world around me. Unfortunately, this process often leads me to fixate on the notion that I could be, should be, focused solely on doing something big and important. Because, I’ll admit, sometimes I get caught up in the belief that I need to do something major in order to truly make a difference, in order to truly be considered valuable. In these moments I find myself needing a perspective shift and a gentle reminder that I am enough, just the way I am; and that little actions, little words can make a huge impact. This important message of intrinsic value came up again as I delved into research for my Martin Luther King Day post.
In preparation for this post, I reviewed one of my previous MLK Day posts. I wrote about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s focus on the importance and power of love. Rereading the post, I realized I often forget how powerful love can be, how important kindness can be, and how valuable these small moments are. It was the reminder I needed to stop being preoccupied only with the shoulds and coulds of big change, and instead remember to continuously choose and practice love and kindness. Because, love and kindness are in the big and small actions and words, maybe especially the small actions and words.
As I continued to prepare for this year’s MLK Day, I read Dr. King’s book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” In it, he offered reflections on the history of the United States as well as possible future directions for our country, covering not just civil rights issues but also poverty alleviation and the importance of nonviolence and the pursuit of peace. I was struck in particular by his emphasis on human worth, influenced by his Christian beliefs. He wrote, “Deeply rooted in our religious heritage is the conviction that every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth…‘The image of God’ is universally shared in equal portions by all men…Every human being has etched in his personality the indelible stamp of the Creator…An individual has value because he has value to God,” and later, “Deeply woven into the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God, and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value.”
What an incredibly important reminder that we all, every single person, has “infinite metaphysical value.” We are all valuable, just for being who we are. I realized this truth also applies to my new year’s conundrum of feeling the need to do something big in order to be considered valuable, of needing to affect major change in order to have worth. This is why the truth is so profound. It negates the have-tos and reminds me that I, we all, already have “infinite value” just for being human.
MLK offered an additional reminder I needed to hear when he emphasized the importance of community and everyone working together, in small and big ways, for change and justice and equality. Because everyone can contribute to making a difference for the good, we are all capable of interacting with one another in love, of treating everyone with kindness and dignity, of working alongside one another for truth and justice, on the big scale issues and through small day-to-day interactions.
King’s message reminded me of a quote by Mother Teresa, “Do small things with great love.” As I continued to reflect on my new year’s goals, this quote kept replaying in my mind, “Do small things with great love.” This reminder has offered comfort when my mind has been flooded with thoughts of needing to do something big or important. It has gently countered my feelings of inadequacy and shifted my thoughts to focus on living daily life with love and kindness.
I also realized I needed to challenge my notion that living life with love and kindness was small. In fact, maybe that is what we all need a little more of right now. Because as we choose to live our lives focusing on loving others well, on interacting with kindness, we are creating community as well as opportunities for others to reciprocate and grow that goodness.
It reminded me of the song “Ripple” from the movie “Spirited”:
Every day I wake up with a single dream
Runnin’ through my head
To throw a little stone into a mighty stream
And watch the ripples as they spread
…Can you hear it reverberate?
(Ripple, ripple, ripple)
Then to millions and to billions and it never ends
All across the world the change is gaining some traction
I really like how the visual captures the power of how a tiny pebble of good, of something small done or said in love and kindness, can cause an extension of ripples for more good, more kindness, more love in the world.
Just as I need the continued reminder about making a difference through love, I also need frequent reminders how daily actions, interactions, decisions, choices, habits, and routines can have an impact on those around us and, in turn, can ripple out far and wide. I forget that, sometimes. I forget that sometimes all it takes is a smile to turn a day around or a kind word to uplift a spirit. While I am unlikely to do something big or cause any major changes in the world, I am reminded that my small contribution, my small voice, my small acts of love and kindness, my small yet inherently valuable being can join the ripples working toward a beautiful tapestry for good in this world.
Wendi is co-author of The Unexpected Ever Afters blog and enjoys sipping extra hot coffee, sharing a love of reading with her kids, and exploring bike trails.
photo credit: personal photos