The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Lessons in Compassion Continued: The Power of One Thing

Every day in sixth grade English class, my teacher wrote a quote across the top of the black board (yes, black board.. I’m dating myself with that admission!), and challenged us to let the words impact our hearts. If I were to choose a quote to be scripted across the blackboard in Hannah’s school of compassion, I would select these beautiful words uttered by  Helen Keller: “ I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

So often, I am nearly paralyzed by the needs around me. Our mailbox is filled daily with pleas for help, worthy causes that need time and money to battle injustice and fill holes of lack–famine in Africa, sex-trafficking in India, home-building in America, earthquake relief in Haiti, Red-Cross efforts in Japan, Angel Tree gifts for children of prisoners. The needs are vast and the stories are heartbreaking. I don’t know where to begin or what to do, so shamefully, I often do nothing. 
Hannah, however, is teaching me the power of one. She reminds me that compassion may begin in the heart but it is best expressed through the hands. We cannot do everything, but we can do something.  Hannah’s approach to heartbreak reminds me of this simple story about starfish…
The Starfish Story
Original Story by: Loren Eisley
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed
a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. 
Approaching the boy, he asked, What are you doing?
The youth replied, Throwing starfish back into the ocean.
The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I dont throw them back, theyll die.
Son, the man said, dont you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?
You cant make a
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,
and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the
man, he said
I made a difference for that one.

I am grateful to have a “starfish saver” right beneath my roof. She reminds me daily that a little giving can go a long way. Over the course of years, we have hosted silly basement carnivals to raise quarters for a feeding program in Haiti, where a mere twenty five pennies feeds a child for a day. We have gathered friends, spread out across town, and conducted “food scavenger hunts” to collect canned goods for our local food shelf, and we have emptied piggy banks, held lemonade stands, and mowed lawns to raise money for orphans across the globe. Not a single one of these ideas has come from this mom. They have all emerged from the heart of a child who believe that Jesus can use small offerings to make a big difference.

Early this summer, Hannah announced that she wanted to do “extra chores for Haiti.”  She made a two-page list of all the things she was willing to do in order to earn extra cash and then set to work. When we ran out of odd jobs at our house, she knocked on our neighbor, Carla’s door and offered to weed the flower beds. When the hot and sweaty work was done, our dear friend paid Hannah a generous $20 dollars for her efforts. With dirt streaked across her face, my little girl did a happy dance on our neighbor’s front step and then looked Carla right in the eye and said, “You should be proud of yourself. You just fed 80 children in Haiti today.” 
Rather than focusing on all the needs across the globe that we cannot possibly meet, why not follow the example of a special seven-year-old girl and do something about the one need the Lord has laid upon our heart today? Helen Keller would agree that “one thing” is far better than “nothing.” 
And who knows? Putting compassion into action just might make you feel a little bit “proud of yourself” today! 

The Overflow:  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

2 thoughts on “Lessons in Compassion Continued: The Power of One Thing

  1. You and your kids are all filled with compassion. If we could fill every home with compassion our world would be different! Keep shining to the rest of us…it’s contagious!

    September 22, 2011 at 11:53 am
  2. Love that picture of the girls! Thanks for including Brooke while she could…she loved every minute..and will miss it while we are in Springfield!

    September 29, 2011 at 2:12 am

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