It’s just one of those days.
One of those days where I open my eyes and it’s not that I just want to write, but I need to. There are days where my fingers just take off and I just pour my guts on to the keyboard and everything just seems to go quiet and hollow for a while. And then there are the days where it’s hard to write down exactly what my heart is thinking and feeling, and my fingers can’t keep up. But days like today–I almost feel like as I type you’re out there somewhere with a letter in your hand, reading my words as they scrawl across the page, so I’m trying to be meticulous about what I say and how I say it. Because it has to be right today.
Yesterday a close friend of mine told a story that I can’t stop thinking about. He was at work when he looked outside the big windows across from him and noticed a man pounding on the window of his car on the passenger side. The man looked around, paranoid that someone might be watching, and my friend looked away and pretended to not pay attention. The man pounded the window again and again, and this time my friend paced across the room, opened the door, and walked toward the man. His eyes were as big as dinner plates. “I just wanted the Pepsi and the change,” the man stammered. My friend looked into the window and sure enough, he had left his Pepsi and some coins in the center console. Without missing a beat my friend opened the door, grabbed the Pepsi and coins, and gave it to the man. When the man asked why he would do that my friend merely answered, “Why not?”
I’m struck by this story, and not for the reason you might think. Of course I’m so grateful to have such Christlike friends who choose to do good every single day. But more importantly, I dwell on the man who saw those few coins and that beverage and wanted it SO BAD. It was everything to him to just have THAT. To my friend, it was something so little and insignificant, something he took for granted as he grabbed it on his way to work. But in that moment, without a moment of hesitation, my friend recognized that this man (although going about it the wrong way) needed it more than him. And who would guess that it wasn’t his car or his stereo equipment or anything jammed in the backseat. It was his soda.
And that’s when it struck me.
We have so much to give that we don’t even realize most of the time–and more importantly, we don’t realize the impact we have on so many when we decide to give it.
Sometimes I photograph clients, or write on my blog or complete little projects and actually convince myself that this is just something small. Something that will pass and fade and something that simply keeps me busy and optimistic. You probably think that too. I’m sure of it. You go through your day and it’s just that–YOUR day. And you just think that these moments belong to you and no, you could never change the world. It’s not that far-reaching.
But I refuse to believe that anymore.
I refuse to believe that in the fabric of eternity you paying for someone’s meal who stands behind you won’t have a ripple effect. I don’t believe that the blankets you crochet only serve to keep new babies warm. And I know without a doubt that what you say to the person struggling at work and that inspirational Facebook status you posted “just because” won’t vanish into thin air. I’m saying this because I know that sometimes it feels like you’ll just disappear someday. Or that in a way you already do or only effect a small group around you.
I’ve learned differently.
This morning, as soon as I opened my eyes I saw my phone blinking. A message from my best friend. She had sent an email with the short little message, “Kayla, if you ever think you’re not changing the world, think again!” The e-mail attachment was a blog that her mom had sent her, a blog that is kept by an inmate named Krissy Hansen who was wrongly put behind bars. I could paraphrase the excerpt of the blog, but I won’t or it wouldn’t be the same or quite as touching as Krissy’s. So here it is.
“My mail today was powerful. Cards, typed letters, hand written notes, newspaper articles, and pictures. Most from people I know, but a few from those I don’t. I have read each of them enough times that if someone read me the first few words from each letter, I would know who it was from. I have tried to set them all up in my locker, but there’s not room for all of them. I shared some of the landscape pictures with some of the other girls. Full color is so needed in here. Why keep all this good stuff for myself? I highlighted one of the church articles a friend sent in and gave it to another inmate. She read it and asked if she could keep it to read again. My friends on the outs have no idea what a strength they are to those in here. I am thankful to be able to pass along the goodness.
I went to Bible Study tonight. Individual girls talked a lot at the beginning. And cried a lot. And felt broken a lot. A couple of them witnessed to each other their simple testimonies of what they know to be true of trials and how the Savior fits in. There was a lull in the conversation. The pastor said, “Keep going, you’re doing great!” I realized we weren’t going to get to our Bible study of “Your Life in Christ,” but the conversation was much more meaningful and applicable. There was an awkward silence and then one of the girls said, “All I know is that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” It was the catch-all phrase that someone always says when someone is having a tough time. The title of one of the articles I just received in the mail popped into my head. I had a thought to bring it to Bible study, but I didn’t. Now I know I should have. It was titled “God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle: I Guarantee It.”
The other girls all shook their heads and agreed with the comment that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. I silently objected, but didn’t think it was the right time to stand contrary with emotions so raw. Then I felt that “Be Brave, Be Bold” feeling. And there was still awkward silence.
And more awkward silence.
I felt like the pastor knew there was something waiting to be said and he was patient to let it happen. Finally I spoke up. “Actually, I think He does give us more than we can handle. He doesn’t expect us to handle hard trials all by ourselves.” I looked around the table, wondering what I was getting myself into – with the full attention of a room full of inmates, going contrary to what they all just agreed with, and a pastor from another church kicked back in his chair that seemed so comfortable with the situation – like he knew this was the way it was all supposed to play out from the beginning of his lesson.
I shared with them the article I received today. There’s not a verse of scripture that says He won’t give us more than we can handle. The verse, I paraphrased, actually says “Those that are heavy laden, come to me. I will give you rest.” I explained what a yoke is between 2 cows – to help them share the load together – and how our Savior tells us to take his yoke upon us. If we do it by ourselves, we will fail. If we try to be strong and think that we can do this because God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, we will break. I only know, because I would have broken a long time ago. Like a single cow trying to pull the whole load by itself, it’s just not meant to happen. Sometimes maybe He purposely gives us more than we can handle – not because He wants to break us, but because He wants us to turn to Him, to realize, and accept Christ’s help – “Take my yoke upon you,” he tells us.
I felt like I should take a seat after I spilled my heart on the table for everyone to decide if they agreed, but I was already sitting. So I waited. The girl across from me was the first to agree. Then a few others commented about how that makes a lot more sense. Shortly after, the pastor thanked me and closed our Bible study with prayer and my heart stopped pounding so loud. When we got back to the pod, 3 inmates asked to read my article. It got passed around and ended up in the hands where it belonged all along – with a girl who needed the message the most that it carried. I could tell she didn’t want to return it to me, so I offered it to her. She acted like she just received a trip to Disneyland. (Actually, if she can learn to apply the message, it’s better than a trip to Disneyland!)
I am thankful for the author of the article who was willing to relate her own heartache. I am thankful for my good friend on the outs who read the article, felt the prompting to send it to me, and then most importantly – acted on it. She was able to touch a roomful of inmates today that needed to know that Christ is real and He’s there and ready to take this long walk of recovery with them – that it is more than they can handle alone, but that He’s ready to take part of the load. I am thankful for my own experiences in the past 3 years that relate that I haven’t done this alone.”
I’m not posting this to toot my own horn. Actually, on the contrary. I’m writing this because I believe in the power of change. I believe it takes one voice, one deed, one person, to do good. To change things. It takes you to stop cornering yourself in your little town or your little home or little church group and to remember that you don’t have to travel a great distance or write the greatest American novel or grace the covers of magazines to impact those who will never even meet you. It takes you to give of yourself every single day. You have the power to stretch and knit and change the fabric of the world.
You don’t change the world. But you change people. And little by little, those people change the world.
I cried through that letter the same way I cried over my friend’s story about the Pepsi. What are we to give? And more importantly, what are we to change that we never knew even needed to be changed? An attitude, a heart, a desire, a purpose?
I don’t know if I’m accurately describing my heart right now, but I hope my words are doing their best. I think the perspective of “It’s just little ole me” is what keeps things the same. Because all it takes is little ole you after all.
That is enough to circle the world, even without your name attached to it, a hundred times over through people who were changed directly or indirectly. That is enough within the cells of a state prison or in the villages of Africa or the streets of New York or the banks of a lazy southern river.
You are always enough. I know it sounds cliche, and you’ve probably heard it before. But maybe one more time was all you needed to know it. So I might as well tell you again. It’s not about being known. It’s not about covering the planet with your name. The truth is, changing the world is just a fancy way of saying what it really is–changing people.
And the next time you think that you don’t, well,–I’ll echo my best friend–