I was leaving a Walmart parking lot today. Standing at the corner was an older woman holding up a homeless sign. You know the kind. A piece of brown cardboard and hand-scrawled writing making an appeal to humanity for help. I stopped alongside her and emptied out my car's change compartment into her hands. I am guessing it was around three dollars. She was grateful and thanked me. I wished her a good rest of her day.
As I drove off, I started feeling bad I had only given her change. It nagged at me until the nagging made me pull over. So, halfway home, I pulled over into a gas station to see if I even had any cash because, so frequently, I don't. I had six singles. I thought to myself, am I really going to turn around and go back to give this woman six singles?
My mind immediately went to the story of the storm that washed up hundreds of starfish along a beach. And a little boy was patiently picking up one starfish at a time and throwing it back into the ocean...picking up a starfish and throwing that one back into the ocean...and on and on.
And, a man came up to the boy and said, there are too many starfish to save so throwing them in one by one isn't really going to matter. And, the boy, as he reached down for another, said, it matters to this one.
My head kept saying the six dollars matters to her, the six dollars matters to her. So, I turned around again and drove back to the Walmart where I could see that the woman was still there holding up her sign. I pulled back up alongside her. I told her I had felt bad that I had only handed her a pile of change and that this was all the cash I had, but I had felt compelled to turn around and give it to her. She looked well, shocked, as she put her hand to her heart. I felt compelled to ask her if she was alright and she said, yes, thank you.
As I drove away this time, I thought about the starfish and how maybe, symbolically, she was one single starfish I had helped throw back into the safe ocean, or at least into McDonald's for a meal. I thought about what if every single person on earth took the time to really matter to someone
else. Not in the obvious husband matters to wife, kids to parents kind of way but, maybe what I mean is, to a stranger. A random unfamiliar, yet humanly and spiritually familiar, other person.
I was watching The Voice and there was a guy on day four of the blind auditions who had tried out last year but didn't make it on the show. This year, all four chairs turned. When he had been on last year, he had been sharing his story about how his wife had just given birth to twin girls and
they both had died. As he shared his current story this time around, he talked about all the viewers who had sent him emails, which had given him encouragement to get through this tough period
in his life. His wife said their healing was in sharing their story.
Maybe the lesson to take away is this...
Your smile matters to the grocery bagger, and your recycling matters to the earth, and your wave matters to the person you are waving at, and your kind words matter to the person you are speaking to, and your handshake matters to the person you touch (literally and figuratively), and your emails matter, and dot, dot, dot.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.”