Simple kindness is on the verge of becoming a lost art in our society and yet, there are still those who remind us what a big difference a small kindness can make. Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by all that needs doing in the world and become paralyzed, doing nothing instead of doing what we can and making a real difference.
Published: December 31, 2017
By: Stephanie Rodda
When Charla Brown was first contacted about the need for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, she could hardly have imagined the long-lasting impact such a seemingly small kindness would have. The coach that year at Woodlawn High School recognized a need and that need was brought to Brown’s attention. She began to do what she could and what she could do was to see that 80 or more PB&J sandwiches were faithfully delivered to the athletes each day that sports practices were in session so they could participate without hunger pangs.
This outreach has now continued for more than five years and tens of thousands of sandwiches have been prepared and provided. But Brown is quick to point out that she could have never accomplished such a task on her own. As word spread over time, a wide variety of groups, families and individuals have participated. Girl Scout troops have volunteered. Small groups from Brown’s church, Church of the Highlands, as well as other local congregations such as Trinity Methodist, have participated. And sometimes, individual families will join in and be a part of spreading the peanut butter onto a slice of bread and a little kindness into a heart.
Woodlawn High School is the only city school in Birmingham without a sports field and they also do not have a booster club. Without a doubt, this leaves the student athletes at a disadvantage. Brown attended and graduated from Woodlawn herself, and realizes that for many of these students, excelling at sports will encourage them to stay in school and possibly lead them to opportunities for higher education.
Although sports practices at WHS are the primary focus of this community outreach, there are times when the WHS Band has received sandwiches and also, the student athletes at Hayes K-8 School. One thing is for sure, a small kindness can make a big difference and this is a good example of that.
Brown recalls when one of the participating groups included inspirational quotes and scriptures with the sandwiches on small note papers. Many of the students taped them onto their gym lockers so they would continue to see them daily. It is moments like these that remind those who are involved, why they are involved.
One of my favorite quotes by Mother Teresa, one of the greatest humanitarians of our time, is, “Do small things with great love.” She herself was small at under five feet tall and less than 100 pounds. But her impact was enormous.
As I’m sure you have, so many times, I have seen the smallest of gestures make a real difference in the lives of people. Most of us have witnessed it and many of us have experienced it. During our years as foster parents, we had the opportunity to witness the impact that kindness can have. Children who felt overlooked were convinced that they were finally noticed when their Santa list was noticed. That gift under the tree was worth far more than the money that was spent on it.
I recently read about a group that passes out small white cards about the size of a business card. There are only two simple words printed in bold black ink upon the white card stock. YOU MATTER is all it says and yet it is having a big impact. The goal for the organization behind the cards is to pass out 1,000,000 cards in 2017. Why? Because the people these cards are given to are so touched by such a simple kindness, sometimes even to the point of tears.
Whether it is a senior in a nursing home, a child in foster care, or a stranger in line behind you in the drive-thru, small kindnesses truly do matter. Sometimes we make mistakenly think that unless our contribution is large, it isn’t significant. It was Aesop who said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” I believe that. It may not always be appreciated, but it is never wasted.
Brenda Braxton, an RN who serves on the Mercy Ship as a medical missionary, shared two needs she was aware of with a group of friends. And now, dozens of the simplest pillowcase dresses are ready to accompany her to serve as hospital gowns for the children being treated. Others handcrafted the small crocheted or knitted bears that each child receives once they are admitted. Alone, you or I could never meet the need, together, small kindnesses can meet a great need. All around the world other people are contributing the dressing gowns and cuddly bears. A child will be greatly comforted because of a small kindness.
The holiday season is an ideal time to reach out to others with random acts of kindness. I recall one shopping day when all of my seven children were small. The store was crowded and maneuvering the buggies and my crew was quite a challenge. A young couple walked by and they held fragrant cups of coffee that I commented on. I just said, “That smells so good.” In the parking lot, they approached me as we were loading up and gave me a $5 gift card to a local coffee house. Their small kindness brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. I enjoyed that treat as I drove home with a van full of children.