I didn’t know this was a saying splashed over Pinterest and Etsy until recently: “Everybody wants to change the world but no one wants to change the toilet paper roll.” Personally, I don’t mind changing the toilet paper roll but I understand the underlying message. When people talk about changing the world, they often think of something big and grand. They fail to realize the little things they do also change the world.
I’m guilty of this too. I have big dreams and pooh pooh the small things I do on a daily or weekly basis that make a difference in the lives of others, as if somehow that doesn’t count because I’m not touching millions. This week offered a perspective shift because I’m sick. Not just sort of sick but really sick. “Sleeping for 12 hours” sick. “Going through tissues more swiftly than I ever have in my life” sick. To top it off, I wasn’t sure if I had COVID because I ran out of tests and felt too terrible to walk to the drugstore to get more.
While trying to psych myself up to run that errand, my dear friend and former neighbor called. I told them, “I wish you still lived next door because I’m sick and ran out of COVID tests and I would ask you for one if you still lived here.” My friend lives about a 10-minute drive away and said, “Oh, do you want me to drop some off for you?”
You GUYS. My heart melted. Not only did my friend leave two boxes of COVID tests on my doorstep but also a box of tissues because I am a veritable mucus factory over here. In the scheme of things, does dropping off supplies really matter to anyone other than me? No. But that’s the point, it mattered to me and changed my world. That’s what I often forget when it comes to making an impact.
I’ve written about it before, but all of this reminds me of the starfish story. If you’re unfamiliar, it goes like this: One day a man was walking along the beach littered with starfish, also called sea stars. He noticed a girl picking them up gently throwing them back into the ocean. Approaching the girl, he asked, “What are you doing?” She replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
The man said, “Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the girl bent down, picked up another sea star and threw it back into the ocean. Smiling at the man she said, “I made a difference for that one.”
We change the world by making a difference for one person, one animal, one plant at a time. Yes, sometimes it’s more than that, but even one life changed is tremendous. The point of service isn’t fame and acclaim. It’s not so people write about you in history books. It’s an act of love for the person, animal, or plant that could use some support. As my spiritual teacher says about service, “Try to make them happy with all the sweetness of your heart.” And you do that one person, animal, or plant at a time.
I dream of a world where we recognize the small actions we do can have a lasting effect on the people in our lives. A world where we understand service is about helping others when they need help. A world where we recognize that changing the world doesn’t have to be in a huge way, it can be a little at a time.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.