The Importance of Small Gestures

Red stylized fist

Often we talk about our human duty to give through political activism, campaigning for the environment, donating to charity, championing one cause or another with blood, sweat and tears. No doubt, most of these projects are worthy.

However, it is easy to get lost in the sheer magnitude of most global ventures. I sometime ask, “Is my money really helping?”  “Did my time actually affect any type of change?” I would guess that I’m not alone. Often charity goals are so big that they are out of sight or can’t be realized in one lifetime. Activists often burn-out when there are no signs of progress.  Donors stop giving and move on, putting their funds in new projects.

I believe that humans do want to help. However, there must be a return on investment; some emotional pay-off.  That sounds awful but its true.  We want to know that we are helping.  We want that warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when you “do good.” That’s a psychological return on the investment. It feeds hope, lightens the spirit and gives us the incentive to continue the volunteer work.  If the payoff never happens, the hope for change can die and most people will move on.

While I was in Target, an older man, in his seventies, was preparing for his work shift. He saw me waiting at the Starbucks counter. He stopped stacking boxes to ask if I needed assistance. When I told him that I was just waiting on the barista, he went to find her. At the end of my shopping trip, I saw this man again. He was smiling and pushing buggies around. When he saw that I had a lot of bags, he came over and took my buggy. Because of his small gesture, I didn’t have to walk clear across the store to my car with loads of heavy bags.

After telling him “Thank You,” I began to think about small gestures. This stranger made my life easier. He had a positive impact on my life. Was his act of charity any less impactful than my donation to the Red Cross; than my writing of press releases to defend religious freedom?

Helping Hand

Small gestures can mean a whole lot in someone’s life. They can lead to big change; if not in a global way, in a personal way – both for the giver and the recipient.  When you perform a small gesture, whether it be a hug or hand, you have the immediate gratification of knowing that your spirit touched another.  You make an immediate difference in a life.  And, who knows?  Maybe a compliment can give someone the courage to apply for new job, embark on a trip or just make it through a really tough day.  That’s impactful on both ends.

The result of small gesture can be as big or bigger than any act of charity. Last Thanksgiving, I participated in a Church-funded food bank. We passed out hot meals, in truck loads, to depressed communities in South Carolina. The overall operation was quite big. But the gesture of handing a tray of piping-hot food was small.  As I handed the food trays out and said “Happy Thanksgiving,” I could feel positive energy weaving through space. This small gesture was big for each family; affecting just that day or maybe their lives.

Small gestures provide the warm fuzzy feeling that only comes when you know that your work and your human spirit of love has really touched another; has really made a difference.  Big time activism is good but not always feasible or long-lasting. We can lose the hope and miss the fuzzy feeling.

Therefore, it is important to emphasize the small gestures, the daily acts of kindness.  Do one, two or three everyday. It will feed your soul and ground your energy.  Plus, if we all did that as part of practice, we might raise the positive vibrational level of the entire planet – and that’s really big.


Photo Credit:
Deviant Art User: dRixlr8t