Remembering the tiny gnat

You know the people you see standing on corners and at intersections holding signs and asking for money? I see them all the time and sometimes if I have a little cash, and I am at the intersection at just the right time, I will roll down the window and give them a few dollars.

A few days ago, I had no cash and the light turned red just as I approached one of these intersections. As I sat there trying to avoid eye contact with the young man holding the sign, I felt a terrible uneasiness. As I looked up our eyes met, and I saw a sadness in the young man’s eyes that haunted me for the rest of the day.

That night it was bitterly cold. The next morning, I looked for the young man but he was not there. As I sat at the intersection, I wondered and worried about him. I hoped that he had found a warm place to sleep and a warm meal to eat.

A few days later my electricity went out in the middle of the night. As I considered whether I would need to get some extra blankets out of the closet or build a fire to stay warm, I saw his face. I wondered if he were warm.

The next day, I had a pleasant lunch with friends. Afterward, while complaining about how full my stomach was, I saw his face. I wondered how long it had been since he had a meal and how full his stomach was.

As I continued to think of this young man, I wondered what more I could do to help him. I wondered what I could do to make things better for him and for so many others like him. As I pondered this question, I became overwhelmed. I felt so small, so unequal to the task.

Then I thought of the tiny little gnat.

Last summer, I visited a beautiful wilderness area. It was quiet and peaceful there and I sat silent and still trying to appreciate the tranquility. My solitude was quickly disrupted by a tiny little gnat flying around my face. I was astonished that something so tiny, so miniscule as this gnat could have such power, such influence.

I attempted to ignore this little gnat’s intrusions for a time, but soon it was joined by many friends. I quickly found that it was impossible to ignore an entire horde of gnats, so I soon gave up and left.

As I thought about the power of this tiny little gnat, it occurred to me that while I may not be able to do everything, I can do something. While I may not be able to help every homeless person or every person in need, I can help someone. And like these little gnats, if each person does something, no matter how small, it can add up to something huge and powerful.

I still see the face of this sad young man. I don’t know exactly what I will do to help yet, but I know that no matter how small it can make a difference.

I can make a difference.

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