When my daughter was a little girl we drove through a prairie on a little dirt road. She looked up ahead and could not tell what the road was covered in. As we got closer it looked like brown plants. We stopped the car and there were thousands and thousands of brown tiny frogs. I have never in my life seen so many frogs. And we were now in a dilemma. How were we to turn around, keep going, or move at all without squishing hundreds of them. We couldn’t. We had to drive through them. No other choice. Water surrounded each side of the road, the prairie was flooded at the time. We had to drive over the frogs. We were both in tears. So my daughter grabbed something out of the back of the car and started saving as many as she could. The back of our car was always stocked full of supplies. If there was a stray dog, there was a bowl, a bottle of water, and another bowl with dog food, a towel, etc. So one of the bowls carried the little frogs. She decided to bring them home which was only a mile away to make sure they were safe. Every year, now, at the same time, we see a few little brown frogs. This year, 15 years later, I opened the mailbox and there were two brown tiny frogs. The mail man must have just put the mail right over them because there they were. We avoid the prairie road at this time for obvious reasons!
My daughter has always saved everything. So have I. Once when we were watching baby birds fly she was the one who spotted the black snake slithering through the grass to come for a baby that was floundering around on the ground. My daughter ran out stomping the ground to scare the snake away. She had to save those baby birds. Because of the snake we were committed to hours and hours and hours of making sure each bird could fly away before leaving the front yard.
One year she decided she wanted a beta fish. So we got her a fish who she named Rainbow. Rainbow lived a very long life for a betafish but his ending was sad. He got some eye infection and his last few days were not so good. She was so upset over that fish. We had a huge ceremony when he died. He has a gravestone in the back yard where he was buried! Next she decided that Rainbow was lonely so she now wanted two betafish. You cannot put two together so we were told to get two females and put a partition in the tank to keep them apart. One night we went to dinner. Came home. Each fish was on her correct side of the tank and each were missing their tails. Diamond and Sparkle were now tailless. But they survived! Who knows which side they fought on then leapt back over into their own prospective sides. So we ventured out to get two separate tanks that were close enough to see each other for them not be lonely but not so close that they could jump from one to the other. They spent all day bowed up at each other showing off. Then my daughter thought they must be exhausted showing off all day so she made a barrier to put between the tanks to give each fish a rest from each other for a few hours a day. I am pretty sure having those fish was far more exhausting than ever having dogs.
Seeing lizards trapped in between the window and the screeen is the worst. These windows are impossible to pull out so you can get to the top of the screen. But this process happens to save the poor starving lizard. Not just for her. It bothers me just the same.
An earth worm drying out in the sun on the sidewalk….painful to see. A tree frog caught in the house in dust under the stove, impossible to see. A dragonfly fluttering inside a light bowl on the ceiling…..must be saved.
This is how my daughter and I are. About tiny little things. So imagine how we feel when we see a starving child, a starving animal, a war torn country, etc. It causes actual physical pain. But being able to feel that kind of empathy comes from a deep capacity to love. It is why I became a chaplain. It is why I did wildlife rehab. It is why I adopted two rescue dogs that were dumped. It is why I started my blog, because the idea that others were suffering after abuse, alone, made me want to do something.
I don’t think it matters how big or how small your act of kindness is. How big or small your act of love is. But I do think every little act does matter. You may not be able to act on a global level or even a State level, or even a city level. Your act may be so tiny that you think it goes completely unnoticed. It did not go unnoticed by the one on the receiving end of your act of kindness. Every single act of kindness matters.
I know not everyone will go to such extremes with a lizard, or a betafish, or an earthworm. We are all different in who we choose to love and help. I don’t think the who is what matters. What matters is looking outside of ourselves and in our capacity to love, and in our ability to feel, using that to help another being. Whether it is giving a bowl of water to a stray dog or traveling to Africa to dig a well, every act of love matters.