This month I came across a small story with a sweet message and mission. I’ve always believed in the power of giving and have felt that the best possible job would be that of a philanthropist. Until I have the funds to do that, I have a practice of donating a percentage of my business profits to different causes. In the past, I’ve given to organizations that are working to end the scourge of slavery or that are committed to environmental protection.
This time I decided to give to an individual. Colette, a young woman with Down’s Syndrome, started her own bakery after trying to get a job and being repeatedly rejected and told she wasn’t a good fit. She now hires others with disabilities, not wanting them to go through what she did. This young woman really demonstrates grit, creativity, and vision. You can read more about Colette’s inspiring story here:
Colette deeply moved me. She made me realize the effect each of us can have and that many times we can’t even anticipate what that will be. Years ago I saw a movie called The Man Who Planted Trees. It is an allegorical tale about a shepherd, who after his wife dies, sets out to reforest the barren landscape near his home. Every day he plants acorns, eventually transforming the landscape into an amazing forest.
I thought of the power of giving, the power of small loving actions performed steadfastly over time. Each of us has the capacity to be like that shepherd – to transform both our inner and outer landscapes into gardens of Eden. It may be a word we say to someone at just the right time, a question we ask that opens doors of possibility, or simply a small gesture that has a huge impact on another.
Years ago when my husband, son and I hiked the Israel Trail we were hosted by many “trail angels,” wonderful strangers that took us in, offered us clean beds, showers, meals and the ability to wash our filthy clothes. Sometimes they left for work and trusted us to lock up after them. I was touched by their kindness and trust and how they wore both those mantles so lightly. I told my husband that I wanted to be like them, to be able to give as openly and easily as they did, actions that for them were as simple as breathing.
After we finished the trail, we, too, became trail angels. I hoped one day I could serve as someone’s inspiration, as our hosts had done for me. One day I got a call from a young hiker who needed a place to stay. I said my husband was returning home that same day from abroad where his sister had just died and that he would still be “sitting shiva”, the period of traditional mourning. I explained that I wouldn’t have time to really welcome him or to provide meals, but if a bed and shower were enough, he was welcome to come and sleep in the small separate apartment we owned. I told him I was sorry we couldn’t do more.
The next day, as I went down to get the linens, I saw he’d written in the little guest book we provided. He addressed his comments to future visitors, sharing with them that he had a profound experience while staying with us. He wrote that he learned what it meant to give to someone else when it wasn’t convenient. He shared how moved he was and how he wanted to remember to do the same in the future. I realized, at long last, perhaps I’d arrived.
I mention this not to congratulate myself but rather to emphasize how fortunate I was to get his note. See, I think we’re all angels. I’m sure you’ve done or said things that shifted someone’s life for the better in small and big ways but may never have known it. I was lucky that day. I thought about all the people who’ve impacted me who didn’t know they had. Sometimes they were strangers I briefly met, other times folks who I simply neglected to tell. Now I try my best to let others know how they’ve been my “angels.” I hope you do the same so we can all feel our wings rustle just a bit more.
Please take a look at a short video I made about this subject:
You’ll find many other videos there as well. Feel free to subscribe so you’ll know when I post something new. And, I’d love to hear from you who has been an angel in your life. That way, even if you never got a chance to tell them, you can share it with us here. Please comment below!