The other day, Allika and I were headed to the store together. As we were walking through the parking lot, we passed a lady with her arms full of groceries. Just as we met, she dropped one of her bags and cans of pop went rolling across the parking lot.
I'm sure you all are waiting for me to say that I used it as an opportunity to teach my daughter about helping others, and we happily bent down and began picking up the cans for the lady.
But I did not.
What went through my head was, "Oh, she must be so embarrassed. I will pretend like I didn't see and keep on walking. If I make a big deal about it, it might humiliate her further."
When we got to the door of the store, Allika looked up at me, very concerned and upset, and said, "Mom, why didn't we help that lady?"
I turned around and saw that several other people from other areas of the parking lot had surrounded her and were helping her pick everything up and load it in her car. I had been standing right next to her and hadn't lifted a finger.
At that moment, all my reasoning for the choice I had made to keep walking seemed so silly and stupid, and I just felt awful.
Not only had I set a bad example for my daughter, but I had missed an opportunity to make someone's day better...to make a small difference in someone's life.
I am always thinking about how much I want to change the world and make a huge impact on humanity. I feel like my existence is for the purpose of making a difference. The problem is that I look for the big splashes that I can make. I am constantly looking for a program or organization I can help or oversee. That has yet to materialize, however.
Sometimes the time and effort it takes trying to promote the right ministry keeps me from noticing each individual person and considering how I can make their life a little easier.
I have heard that my life is like $1,000,000 dollars. Spending that money is the mark I will leave on humanity. There are three ways I can handle my potential impact: keep it all to myself and not spend much of it on anyone else; spend it all in one huge, life-changing display of self-sacrifice; or spend it slowly and quietly over the course of my life on each situation in which I recognize a need.
So many of us are looking for ways we can lay it all down at once and go out with a bang. In reality, there are only a few that will be called to spend their $1,000,000 dollars in that way. For the rest of us, we will be asked to spend a dollar here and ten dollars over there. Our impact will be the phone calls we make to a lonely widow, the visits we share with a sick senior citizen, the rides we give to someone without a vehicle, the babysitting we provide for a single mother, the physical touch we extend to a mentally handicapped person, the hospitality we bestow on a homeless family, the meal we make for a college student, the games we play with our children, or the pies we bake for our enemies.
Of course, those things aren't as flashy and recognizable. They may not win us any awards or get our names engraved on any plaques. But Jesus promised us something even greater.
"...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:3-4
"...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,..." Matthew 20:26
"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. The your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." Luke 6:35
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42
I am not belittling anyone's intentions to do something big like becoming a missionary, helping out in a third world country, running an orphanage, or founding a life-changing ministry. It's just that for me, I can wait and wait for those types of opportunities all my life and miss the very real needs right in front of my nose because they seem so small.
I was reminded of that the other day when I walked right by the lady who had dropped her groceries all over the parking lot.