Two Simple Things Everyone Can Do That Will Make A Difference
It’s almost embarrassing to admit, but sometimes in the quest to make a difference and have an impact, I forget the simple things. I get caught up in strategizing, researching, or worrying about what I will say if ________ or do when _______.
There’s a lot of this going on in the church world. We want to reach out, be missional, make a difference. So we read the latest books, attend conferences, watch youtube videos and stream podcasts. We even gather with other Christians to pray for our neighborhoods.
It’s amazing how much of this goes on without much fruit or tangible impact.
Recently I’ve been amazed at how complex I’ve tried to make it when the whole time what I need to make a difference is right under my nose. Literally.
There are two simple things everyone has at their disposal to use. Get ready. Wait for it….
1. A Smile.
I know – you may be rolling your eyes right now. But it’s true. The simple act of smiling has a way of breaking the ice, changing the ambiance, projecting openness and kindness. And it even often causes others to smile. It’s good for my own mood and disposition and sometimes helps to brighten another’s day. And smiling costs nothing.
2. A Greeting.
This is a logical next step for many a smile. Simply saying “hi”, “hello”, “welcome”, “have a good day” often has a positive impact. Why? It can be a generous gift to another person to acknowledge their existence and simply be friendly or courteous.
Now, some prefer not to speak, but to nod or wave, especially runners. (Apparently there are a variety of opinions on this.) I’ve found it best to just go with the flow and let it be spontaneous.
I’ve found when the setting is appropriate (like at the gym or a friendly neighborhood encounter at a coffee shop or on the sidewalk) that this sequence is even better: smile, and then say “hi, I’m ______” [insert your name]. Most times the person smiles and says “hi, I’m ______”.
The unexpected impact and the conversations that follow
You may be rolling your eyes again, but I am astonished at how these two simple things impact people in a positive way. I had made it a goal to be intentional about smiling often throughout the day and to be a welcoming presence at my local gym.
Again to review, the two simple things I did were smile and greet people.
A case study at my gym:
I could tell a girl at my gym spoke mainly spanish. I speak spanish fluently, but felt shy about reaching out. One day I decided to go for it. I wasn’t just going to smile, I was going to say “hola”. That’s it. It was the best I could come up with. Lame I know. So I literally did just that: smile and greet her in spanish.
That simple gesture led to a great conversation, which led to a few more conversations. Which then led to her seeking me out because she is going through a hard time and wanted someone to talk to. We went out after our workout to talk over Pho. She shared what she was going through.
Eventually I asked why she was telling me all this and how I could support her. She said it was hard to describe “but you can just tell with people sometimes, by how they treat you.” She said because of my smile and openness she sensed I was a person who would listen. That’s all she wanted. Someone who would listen.
A gift of generosity
Now I don’t expect to have every interaction turn into deep conversation. And many times it doesn’t. What I do know is that I can be generous with simple acts of kindness. I can choose to be a person who contributes to a positive and welcoming environment. I can extend hospitality. That makes a huge difference. And it can be quite missional.
I want to invite you to join me on this journey of generosity: Smile often. Greet people. And see where those two simple things lead. And if you have a good story, share it in the comments below.