Good Deedless for the Day

I’m feeling apologetic. I guess that makes me a stereotypical Canadian.

Our family was in full gift-giving mode yesterday. We have only one child, so there oughtn’t to be much under the tree on Christmas morning. And the truth is, nothing is exactly what you’d call over-the-top extravagant. But it’s been a challenging year, and we family members have really come through for each other, and I suppose exchanging thoughtful gifts is a way of expressing our gratitude for each other. We do also spend part of Christmas Day with extended family, but we’ve got strategies in place to keep the gift frenzy to a minimum: The adults buy a present for only one other adult. Still, with a group of 18 people (not to mention some awfully cute kids), there’s a fair bit of wrapping paper flying around.

And now it’s Boxing Day, and I’m on a holiday break. Apart from the family and household chores that I can’t get out of – the kitchen doesn’t clean itself – I have made up my mind to work as little as possible.

So I’m sipping a coffee and reading the paper and determined to relax. And now I read a story about the aftermath of the Haiti disaster, and about generous souls from around the world who are making significant sacrifices of their time and money to do what they can to help a few of the people there. And then I speak on the phone with my neighbour, whose family is headed to the local food bank to volunteer over the holidays.

And that’s when I feel small. Me, I have no grandiose plans for doing good today. Or even this week. I was just intending to take a time out for a day or two, leafing through a couple of my new books or cracking open my lime-mint hand lotion.

It’s almost worse when I check my e-mail and discover that some obviously big-hearted guy in south Asia has sent information about my writing to a bunch of his friends, presumably hoping I’ll inspire them. Me? How can I compete with folks who are literally transforming their lives to make a difference to total strangers?

But whenever I talk about good deeds, there are two things I always come back to. (Okay, there are usually more than two because I tend to gab. But I digress…) First, I’m no girl guide. I’m just a regular person with a mortgage and chores and a job and occasionally extranormal family responsibilities. I know I am not ever going to singlehandedly save the world. Second – and this is an important piece – even the tiniest things that we do for another person have the potential to make a large difference. Often they set off a chain of kindnesses that we couldn’t possibly have predicted. So these acts are important, even if we don’t know it.

And so maybe I’ve got my feet up for most of the day. But perhaps the word of encouragement I give to someone today, or the cup of sugar I lend to a neighbour, or the mail I send to our foster child in Africa, may have an impact. And if it doesn’t? At least the positive vibes will be humming.

So for now I think I’ll let myself off the hook, and pour more coffee.

No, I’m not saving Haiti today. But I did find a chuckle or two in the funny pages.

6 responses to “Good Deedless for the Day

  1. Your statement, above, “…even the tiniest things that we do for another person have the potential to make a large difference,” is supported by other famous quotes.
    One that comes to mind is, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” It’s author: AESOP.

  2. Aesop was one smart cookie! That’s from the story of the lion who spared a little mouse’s life… and it later circled back, when the lion was caught by hunters. The mouse was able to free him by gnawing through the ropes that held him. Even Aesop knew what goes around comes around!

  3. Sometimes the good deed we do is for ourselves. So I suggest that apologies for having some time for R & R for oneself is not necessary. Feel good about yourself and enjoy the deed you do for that person as well.

  4. Thanks, John, for that essential reminder!

  5. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for others is to take some time for yourself to rest, relax and re-group! As a humanitarian aid worker R&R was mandatory. We forget that it is so important to our health! So enjoy the time to yourself and know that your words will continue to inspire people when you are “off the clock”. We also look forward to you prompting us to not loose our Christmas charity but carry it into the cold months of winter!

    On another note, Naomi Bronstein passed away this past weekend. Do you remember the work she did with Heal the Children Canada? She has been working with Healing the Children in Guatemala for the past years and passed away in Guatemala. She was someone who worked tirelessly advocating and fighting for children’s access to health care. She ran an orphanage along with other women in Vietnam – Friends for All Children – and was involved with Operation Baby Lift in 1975. My brother Tam came over during this evacuation of orphans. Thinking of her and all the wild women of the 70’s who responded to the needs of so many children during the war.

  6. Thank you for those wise and generous words, Jill. Also, I appreciate your highlighting the work of Naomi Bronstein. She made an important difference to families in more than one country, as did all of the adoptive parents.

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