My friend dropped her son off at church for the youth group meeting that my husband Ben and I were leading. She said she was headed to the grocery store while youth group was going on. I must’ve made some comment about needing to stop by the store or maybe I just groaned, but she immediately asked what I needed. I thought for a few seconds – what did I really need without causing an imposition? “I need strawberries,” I said. I explained that I put strawberries in the boys’ lunches, and the strawberries were the only thing I lacked to make their lunches on Monday morning. Ben chuckled but my friend insisted it was not a problem. Two hours later when youth group ended, my friend handed me a bag with a pound of strawberries in it.
When my friend said she would buy the strawberries, I felt such relief. My stress level eased. I’d thought I would have to go by the store sometime after youth group to be prepared for Monday morning. But I know myself, and if I’d gone to the store that night, I would’ve tried to recall the items on the long list I had at home. I would’ve rushed around the store like a crazy person trying to grab as many things as I could. But now the pressure was off. I had the one thing I needed to get through Monday morning.
After I got the kids to school on Monday, I roamed leisurely through Target with my list in hand. I took my time. My friend who’d gotten the strawberries for me texted that it was National Strawberry Day. I thanked her again for her help. Her kindness had completely changed my whole evening and morning. Her willingness to ask what I needed and then follow through was all it took to make a huge difference for me.
Today, I was with a couple of my writing friends, and we were discussing the difficulty I had getting started on a new project. They made some suggestions, which were thoughtful and helpful. I told them I worked best with deadlines and accountability, so I promised that I would try their approach before our next meeting in April and show up with writing in hand as proof. I hope this one concrete step will unlock my resistance and inspire me to begin in earnest. I felt better as I left our meeting because I knew the next thing I’d agreed to do.
Perhaps the key to helping others and helping ourselves is to take one specific action. Something that we can easily commit to do. Instead of trying to solve the whole problem, we can pick a small measurable goal. In that way, we will not be overwhelmed by the enormity of the project or the problem which makes getting started difficult or seem impossible. Dwelling on the abstract delays progress. It’s easy to get caught in feelings of desperation or disillusionment that paralyze us. A single choice to act can open our eyes and minds to the possibilities. A simple gesture of kindness can have repercussions far beyond the act itself.
The next time we face a stressful or seemingly insurmountable obstacles, let’s ask the question of ourselves and others: what is the one thing we can do right now, no matter how insignificant it may appear, to move forward? Just asking the question and deciding to take one small action may be all we need to shake ourselves loose from the anxiety and pressure we feel. If we can relieve a tiny burden for another or make progress no matter how small, we can build momentum day after day that may carry us toward achieving the greater good.