by Becky Keife
I stood in Costco staring at the massive stacks of bottled water. They were all the same, but I was having a hard time making a decision. I was trying to determine which case of water would be easiest to lift into my shopping cart. In the middle of my contemplating, a fellow shopper said, “Can I help load that for you?” The stranger was just being kind. What he didn’t know was that I’m currently awaiting hip surgery, so this water-loading task that usually wasn’t a problem for me was, in fact, a problem. His small gesture of helpfulness made me feel cared for.
I collected a stack of mail from our dusty mailbox. Wedged between bills and junk mail was a pink envelope. I saw the telltale penmanship and my heart leapt. It was a letter from a friend. A simple note of encouragement to tell me I was thought of. A few moments of time and a fifty-cent stamp made me feel loved.
I met a new mom at my sons’ soccer pictures. They just moved from across the country. We chatted about summer ending and school starting. I shared my recommendation for a good pediatrician and where the closest emergency room is. She asked how I juggle kids on different teams. I told her it can be tough, especially when my husband is traveling. “If you ever need help with rides, please let me know!” she offered, and we exchanged phone numbers. She was the “new girl” but her kind offer made me feel less alone.
These were not life-changing encounters—but they did make a difference in my life.
Most of us tend to overcomplicate what it means to make a meaningful difference. We think big impact is reserved for people with a certain amount of bank account dollars or Instagram followers. We think we must have a specific skill set or educational background or activism passion. That the real difference makers work for nonprofits or sign up for community service.
And it’s not like we don’t care. We want to love, help, serve, be the change. But we look at the heaviness around us, all the world’s big complex problems without easy solutions, and measured against our ordinary lives it all seems like too much for one person. Feelings of inadequacy or sometimes apathy weigh us down to the point of inaction. Am I the only one?
So how do we make a positive impact in our messed up, broken world when we don’t seem like world-class influencers? One small, intentional act of kindness at a time.
This is what I call the simple difference. The simple difference says, I will put on a posture of kindness. I will look for ordinary ways to be the blessing in someone’s day. I will notice others, encourage generously, and serve joyfully out of the abundance of God’s loving grace.
Our small offerings of love, kindness, and encouragement can truly be the difference maker in someone’s day! Helping someone to feel seen—by you and by God—is one of the greatest gifts we can give without cost or limit.
1. Let someone go ahead of you in line at a store.
2. Pick up the phone and call the person on your heart.
3. Send a “just because” card to brightens someone’s day.
4. Ask a friend or neighbor if you can pick up anything at the store you’re already going to.
5. Offer a specific time to babysit to give a parent a breather.
6. Compliment a stranger.
7. Tell a student or coworker that they’re doing a great job.
8. Smile when others are angry, panicked, anxious, or rushed.
9. Instead of saying, “I’ll pray for you,” stop and pray in the moment.
10. Invite someone over for dinner who might be lonely or missing their family.
11. Look a service worker in the eye and tell them you appreciate them.
12. Go first in introducing yourself and welcome the new person.
13. Reach out to someone going through a hard time and make space for their grief or pain.
14. Offer to fold a friend’s laundry or do the dishes.
15. Ask how someone is doing and really listen.
This list is just a jumping off point! The real key to being a difference maker is starting every day with a posture and prayer that says, “Lord, as I go on my way, have Your way with me.”
When we surrender our hurried, distracted lives, when we surrender our comfort and our pre-conceived notions of what it means to make an impact, God will do more with our small obedience and ordinary faithfulness than we ever could imagine! Offer Him your stone of kindness and watch Him magnify the ripples.
Becky Keife is the Community Manager for (in)courage and the author of The Simple Difference: How Every Small Kindness Makes a Big Impact and the Courageous Kindness Bible study. Connect with Becky on Instagram and join the kindness movement at bethesimpledifference.com.