mother and daughter

All around us are those who live in need. For some, the nature of the difficulty is obvious. Others carry a burden which may not be evident, but is equally hard to bear. As we pay close attention to the people about us, we will become aware of their suffering and how we can help to lighten the load they carry.

The recipient of our kindness may be someone with whom we are close, or one who crosses our path for only a moment. Our caring will prepare us to act in the instant of opportunity to do all we can. And the good we do may be just what is needed.

In a neighborhood of moderate houses and average people lives a woman who would draw little attention from the larger world. On baking day she can be seen walking to the homes of those she feels might be cheered by a plate of cookies or a warm loaf of bread. But perhaps more important than her little offering of food, are the smile and kind words of encouragement which always accompany the tasty gift.A quick compliment, a look of understanding and, on occasion, a few minutes just to listen. She can give all of these and frequently does.

Your simple smile might give a gleam of hope to someone who sees little but hardness in the world. To hold open a door for another person may be just the boost he or she needs during an otherwise unhappy day. If you avoid acting negatively when someone is unkind or foolish, they may be able to steady themselves and go on more carefully. A true servant of mankind is willing to wisely respond to whatever is asked in order to bless the life of whoever may be in need.

Picture a woman who is trying to walk across a swollen stream, picking her way carefully from stone to stone, hoping to avoid slipping into the cold water. She is just looking for one more place of firm footing, not necessarily for someone to carry her clear across to the other side. She just needs a moment of security to gain her balance and look ahead for the next step. You can offer a steady hand or a safe place for someone to step as she or he makes their way across the sometimes treacherous stream of life. What a privilege to be even a stepping stone for someone who, without our help, would certainly have had a more difficult time.

The range of possibilities for loving service is vast. Though some have given their all, even their lives, as a testament of unselfish sacrifice, most of us are asked to give far less. To visit the sick, to read to a child, to include in our circle someone who is lonely and having a hard time fitting in; such easy acts of kindness will lift another and, in the process, will make our own difficulties seem less troublesome.

There is a unique gift only you can give, and that is . . . you. You may not think you have very much to offer, and in truth you may not be the complete solution to someone else’s problem, but you really don’t have to be. Even little gifts can make a great difference.

The light of our lives burns brighter when we give of ourselves.