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At the start of a new year, I always spend some time thinking about what I’d like to see happen in the coming twelve months.The process usually leads to a recognition of lifestyle changes that will help me get from where I am to where I want to be. Very often, a commitment to those changes takes the form of resolutions.
This year, things are a little different.
When I think about resolutions, it’s generally in terms of making a change or creating a habit that will benefit me and further my goals.
But over the last few months, and especially this week, as I pondered the distressing, unfathomable, heartbreaking events that have rocked the nation this week and brought me to tears, I find that I’m less concerned about myself and more concerned about my neighbors, community, and country.
I’m painfully aware that, on a grand scale, there isn’t a great deal I can do to salve the wounds or heal the divisions of society.But being unable to do a lot doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.
Maybe what we need is a different kind of resolution.
Sand Dollars and Salvation
There’s a story about a little girl who went from a walk on the beach after a storm. She saw thousands upon thousands of sand dollars had washed up onto the beach and been stranded there when the tide went out.
Being a very smart little girl who had paid attention during science class, she understood that sand dollars are not shells but living creatures, a kind of sea urchin. Knowing that the sand dollars would die if they were out of the water for long, the girl set out on a rescue mission. She started to walk the beach, picking up sand dollars and casting them back into the sea.
After several hours of this, a grownup came along and told her it was hopeless. “There are just too many,” the grownup said. “You can’t save them all!”
“I know,” the little girl said, and bending down to pick up another sand dollar and then casting it back into the surf. “But I can save that one.”
Small Acts are a Big Blessing to Someone
Each one of us, in our own small way, has the ability to impact our community and world, for good or for ill.
I believe with all my heart that those small acts and impacts can add up to big differences over time – perhaps not on a global scale, but certainly within our sphere of influence and within the lives of the individual people we encounter.
That’s why, this year, I am making a different resolution, a resolution to be a blessing.
A Different Resolution: More than a #Hashtag
The word “blessing” has many different meanings and shades of meaning.
Some definitions of blessing involve the sacred, something that is consecrated and holy, or times when God blesses his people. Other interpretations are more secular, like when somebody puts a picture of their new car on social media and adds a #blessed to the post (and probably irritates a whole bunch of people in the process.)
What I am talking about today is being a blessing by bestowing good upon others.
But what does being a blessing really look like when it’s lived out? After all, a resolution without an action plan is just wishful thinking.
I imagine and sincerely hope that I’ll learn more about that in the coming year, but I’m already thinking about several areas where my actions and attitudes can help to bless others.
Be A Donor
It’s impossible, of course, but how I wish I could save every stranded “sand dollar” I encounter!
However, my small efforts to help humanity will go farther and have more impact when I partner with the people who already have rescue operations underway. This year, my resolution to be a blessing will include making whatever donations I can to responsible, established charities that are already at work in my community.
Be a Doer
Until we’re through the pandemic, being a blessing by doing is a little tougher than it used to be. Many organizations have cut back or eliminated opportunities for volunteering. Hopefully, that will change over the course of 2021. But there still may be ways we can help, even at home, so be sure to ask about those kinds of opportunities.
One organization that I have supported over the years is Quilts for Kids. In addition to financial donations, Quilts for Kids seeks volunteers to sew masks and quilts from kits and patterns which they supply. Those masks and quilts are donated to children’s hospitals and organizations which help kids in crisis.
Besides the fact that they bless so many children with quilts, I love the fact that Quilts for Kids keeps thousands of yards of fabric from going into landfills every year. So, in addition to being a blessing to children, these quilts also bless the planet!
Be a Listener
There is so much I could say about this. But it really gets down to this…
Talk less. Listen more.
It’s one of the most difficult things in the world to do. But I’m convinced that listening patiently and well is one of the greatest blessings we can bestow on others. And, if we could somehow undertake it on a corporate level, becoming a nation of listeners, our world would look very, very different.
I know I’m just one person, but maybe I can start a trend. Maybe you can too and, together, we could make listening fashionable again.
It’s a long shot, I know, but it’s worth a try. Who knows, we may have more influence than we realize?
Be an Influencer
You’ve probably heard the word “influencer”, right?
It’s a marketing term, generally related to people who have the ability to influence public buying habits. For example, if an actor, sports figure, or internet celebrity is seen using a product or brand, people who admire them might be influenced into trying it for themselves. Influencing is a more subtle type of marketing than in-your-face advertising. It’s based on the fact that people often aspire to the lifestyle of other people whom they admire.
Most of us aren’t famous, but we still have a sphere of influence within our families, friends, church, and community. And, just as an admired celebrity can subtly influence the buying patterns of others, we have an opportunity to subtly influence the behavior and attitudes of others, simply by the way we conduct ourselves.
In short, every one of us has the opportunity to influence others, not by lecturing, scolding, or shaming, but simply by setting an example with our own behavior and attitudes.
If you’re in despair about the lack of kindness, integrity, or civility in the world, then double and re-double your commitment to being kind, honest, and respectful in your dealings with others.
The process may be slow and the results incremental. But, over time, you may be surprised by how the good example you set with this different resolution really can influence others within your sphere.
It’s a Big Beach
I realize that none of us have the energy, influence, and resources to right all the world’s wrongs. And in the grand scheme of things, one person’s different resolution to be a donor, a doer, a listener, and influence, and a blessing probably seems like small potatoes.
It’s a big beach. I get it. No matter how hard we try, we won’t be able to save all the sand dollars.
But we might be able to save that one. And if you think that’s not important…just ask the nearest sand dollar.