There we were last night on the other side of sympathy again feeling completely inadequate. A friend had just lost his sister and our words and offers seemed so small.
Half a lifetime ago, when I was in college I remember hearing of a bank scam. Some young programmer had figured out a way to take the fractions of a penny that are rounded off each day in interest calculations and divert these to his own account. No one who lost a piece of a penny felt the lost of such an insignificant amount. And yet, his bank account grew quickly.
Since then there have been countless times when we’ve seen a mother or a father at the bottom of a staircase with a baby in a stroller. It is nothing for one of us to pick up one side of the stroller and help the parent up the stairs. Such a small act. And yet, when someone has stopped to help me out in the same situation it has meant so much. It’s not just that they’ve made my journey easier – it’s more that someone else took a moment in time to notice and help me.
And so, no matter how stupid and small our gesture seems to be, we offer food, conversation, a place to stay, whatever they need to our friend who has lost somebody. He says something important when I apologize for not being there when his father died. He says that he didn’t tell anyone. He says that he didn’t realize then that it would be important to other people that want to help him.
I didn’t understand that either until recently. I didn’t understand how much other people want to help and how much they are certain that they are not up to the task. So many people have called this week to apologize for not doing more. I keep telling them, whatever you did was exactly the right thing to do – even if it was nothing at all. Coming across country to give us a hug was an electric connection that helped us through. Sending us an email saying you were thinking of us was the reminder we needed. Quietly contributing to Elena’s fund will help other children. Taking a moment to read Green Eggs and Ham to your children like it has never been read before or just to give them an extra look or a hug makes the world we all live in better.
It all seems small and meaningless. But like those fractions of pennies it all adds up to make us all richer. Thank you again for the little things.