“We can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone.” - Ronald Reagan
Small actions can have a huge impact.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot after the funeral of a friend last week. In a tribute, her parents said that since she died, they have been overwhelmed by the stories of things she had done for so many people. Small things, but things that made a big difference. “All kinds of things,” her parents said with wonder and pride amid the sadness, “… things we knew nothing about.”
And it’s true… this amazing lady had an ability to spot what was needed and an instinct to respond in whatever way she could, never expecting anything in return. Her attitude was straightforward… “I am here, if I can, I will help.” Many actions in her too-short life, will be remembered with gratitude and warmth by those she helped, and they all add up. I wonder if she ever realised the significant and wider impact of her actions? “She set an example,” said the vicar, “and the world is a better place for her having been in it.”
It is in our nature as humans to respond to the needs and difficulties of others but we don’t always find it easy. Our own lives and problems get in the way, we are “too busy”, or maybe just at a loss as to what to do for the best. We worry that we are interfering, or conversely that what we offer won’t be enough… the moment passes. I have been guilty of all these things at times, so it is empowering to remember that the little things matter - we don’t need to be powerful, rich or famous to make an impact.
Over the last year we have seen this time and again with the thousands of individual acts of compassion and kindness across the country. The periods of isolation and lockdown rules have made it even harder to do things, but despite this, the human instinct to help has pushed through.
I remember in the first lockdown, a lady in the village where my parents lived put a note through their door offering to help people who couldn’t go out. Not only did she pick up a prescription for my parents and deliver it to them, but a week later she left a little box of groceries on the doorstep. This practical help was extremely useful at the time, but the compassion and kindness was valued even more, and we still remembered and appreciate it now.
These acts and thousands of others like it, have been going on in many communities - help in the toughest of times - because as humans, this is what we do. Big gestures can make a difference, yes, but small actions really add up and get us through. The beauty is that when we receive honest help, we feel good, and when we give something of ourselves to make someone else’s life better, it makes us feel good too - the action and reward are complete.
We are often reminded to appreciate the little things… but also, let’s DO the little things. No matter how small or insignificant we think our help is (because we do have a tendency to underestimate ourselves) believe in the positive impact it will have.
What will you do?
And there’s something else too…
You don’t have to go it alone. When we act together the impact can be even greater.
Every year in the spring my son’s cricket club asks members to give an hour or so of their time over a weekend to help open up the clubhouse for the season. Players and their families drop by to help clean the windows, sort the equipment, weed the path, wash the cups, fix the guttering or whatever needs doing - jobs that would take one person a lot of hard work and several days to finish. The BBQ at the end does of course help, but there’s also a satisfaction in being part of something big, a pride (and often some competition!) in doing the best job, a feeling of achievement, and a sense of shared responsibility and camaraderie.
Evolution shows that survival of communities has often depended on the compassion and collaboration within that group. Each person brings different skills and ideas increasing the capabilities of the group. Working together motivates and encourages people and provides support when people might give up. Feeling proud and celebrating achievements brings the group together.
I’m reminded of a line in a song that my children learnt in infant school “If we all do a little bit, it will add up to a lot…” and it’s true. Even just a few people can make a difference, there is power in community, and as we slowly (and hopefully) make a return to normal, let’s look out for each other, work together and act on our natural instinct to respond to people’s needs… it will make a difference.
Deborah Stephenson, Ollie Coach trainee
I am an Ollie School trainee and a Director at an Independent Prep School for boys. I am a trained journalist and worked in BBC Local Radio for more than twenty years as a reporter, bulletin reader, news editor and programme maker. It was a great job, but I wanted to do something to support my own children’s wellbeing with a view to taking that on to support others and, in pursuit of a better work life balance, I resigned as the Assistant Editor of BBC Essex last year. Inspired by the Ollie School concept I was excited to be accepted for the training course and it has been a fascinating and enlightening and journey so far.
To get in contact with Deborah, email email@example.com
To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to https://www.ollieandhissuperpowers.com/pages/about-us