How a simple poem changed my life.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
— Leo Buscaglia
When I was in the 8th grade, a new girl moved into my school and into my life. Heather was a quiet, plain-looking girl — the kind you could easily overlook.
It’s a sad fact that most of us didn’t see her.
One day during lunch period, Heather walked up and asked for my help. I don’t remember what she needed, but I excused myself to go sit alone with her at another table. For a few minutes, she had my full attention.
I didn’t know how tough it was for her to ask for help. Later, I learned how painfully shy she was and the ominous reasons she kept to herself.
Those few minutes with Heather meant nothing to me. Had it not been for the following, I would have completely forgotten the event. My only sacrifice was missing a few minutes of gossiping with friends while munching on smoked almonds.
To Heather, those few moments touched her heart. She felt my willingness to give her my time — a kindness uncommon in her life — was the greatest gift in the world.
To show her gratitude, Heather wrote me a note and included the words to the Mary Dawson Hughes poem, The Little Things.
It really is the little things
That mean the most of all…
The “let me help you with that” things
That may seem very small…
– Mary Dawson Hughes
While I’ll never remember what I did for Heather, I’ll never forget receiving her note and how it made me feel. I realized how little I noticed her value and promised myself I would be better.
Sadly, Heather wasn’t in my life for long. Months later, she moved away, and shortly after she died in a car accident.
I carried Heather’s handwritten note in my wallet for years. It reminded me how even the simplest things can touch someone’s life. We just need to do something.
Pick a flower and give it to a friend. Open a door for a stranger. Send a meaningful text message. Offer your time. Smile.
Those tiny acts of kindness have the power to change someone’s day. We never know when the simplest act will have the greatest impact.
Make it your aim to be kind and generous with your time.
I can never repay Heather for the lesson she taught me. Instead, I live each day looking for the next Heather I can help.
P.S. I believe my love of poetry was born at the moment when Heather gave me her precious handwritten note. You can read some of my poems on the poems page.
Here’s a poem video about the pain we think no one sees.
This story first appeared on Medium.
Scott Ninneman is a daytime bookkeeper and nighttime writer. The voice of Speaking Bipolar, he writes about battling mental and chronic illness. Other topics include poetry, personal development, and pop culture.