Years ago my family was travelling from NY to MD and we stopped at a highway rest stop to give everyone a break. While we were there, we noticed a young mother with two little kids sipping a cup of coffee. Somehow I started talking to her (my kids don’t know how I end up talking to people wherever we go but that’s how I am!) and she shared that she was headed for home but was so tired that she was worried about driving safely – hence the coffee.
When I learned that she lived in the same general area that we did, I had a powwow with my husband. He had been driving the first half of the four hour drive so that I could sleep and we planned that I would drive the second half while he rested – this rest stop was halfway through and where we were going to switch places.
I told him about this young mother and asked him if he felt able to drive the rest of the way home. He said he did. I asked him how he would feel about me offering to drive her home in her car, and he said he thought it would be a good idea if the woman agreed.
Having gotten dh’s okay on this, I approached the young mother. I told her I was headed in the same direction and would be happy to drive her family in her car if she would find that helpful. She very gratefully agreed. (I’m a pretty safe looking person, especially since she saw me with my van full of kids. :))
I told her she could sleep on the way home, but we ended up chatting the entire 1.5 – 2 hour drive. It was a pleasant drive. I never saw her again – I don’t remember her name and wouldn’t recognize her face.
Sometimes we have a chance to do something for someone else, something that’s big for us and big for them. Sometimes it isn’t so big for us but is big for them. Sometimes it’s something small for someone that is small for us. It doesn’t matter how huge or how insignificant what you do may seem to be – it all makes the world a kinder and more loving place.
I’ve tried to teach my children to keep an eye out for ways to help others, even if those people have no idea you’re doing something for them. I don’t generally mention the ways I try to help others I casually encounter – but I do sometimes mention it to my younger children and I involve them when appropriate.
Doing something nice for others is surprisingly easy to do, once you open your eyes. It doesn’t have to be something big. Smiling at someone as you pass them, reaching a high shelf at the store to get something for a shorter customer, making a kind comment to a mother whose child is publicly tantruming, offering a ride to someone waiting at a bus stop or whose car has broken down on the side of the road, clearing an elderly neighbor’s walkway or windshield of snow before it turns to ice – there are so many ways to do a good turn for someone else. And it feels really good!
I think of all of these actions as lighting candles in the darkness. In the darkness, it
seems like one tiny flame won’t make much of a difference. But one little candle can dispel a lot of darkness. When people have thanked me and asked me what they could do for me, I suggest they pass it on by doing something for someone else when they’re in a position to do so. Then one candle lights another and then another and a huge amount of light can be created. All beginning from one little action.
Here’s a new Chanukah music video by Ari Goldwag that I enjoyed watching with my kids. You’ll see the connection to what I shared when you watch the video!
It’s almost Chanukah, the Festival of Lights – it’s not a coincidence that this holiday takes place when the days are shortest and there’s more physical darkness than at any other time of year.
What can you do to light up someone else’s life?