A few years ago, a friend of mine, Henry, had his car break down. This is a fairly common occurrence, but because Henry had a job interview that day, it seemed especially infuriating. For about five minutes, Henry felt as though the whole world was against him. Why, oh why, did his car have to break down as he was going to a job interview for a job he really, really wanted? This was where a stranger’s compassion came into play.
Well, as it happened, another man was driving on the same road as Henry was. And this man also happened to have the skills and resources to help fix Henry’s car. What possible things could have happened here? The man could have thought that Henry wasn’t worth helping. After all, what did he have to gain from using his time and resources to help a total stranger? The man could have thought that he didn’t have enough time to help. He could have taken the view that helping somebody else for no immediate gain is pointless. He could have driven straight past, and gone on to whatever it was he was planning to do.
Plenty of things could have prevented that man from helping Henry. Instead, he did decide to help. He got out of his car, and spent fifteen minutes of his own time making sure Henry’s car was totally able to get Henry to his job interview.
Henry attended the interview. He got the job. He’s eternally grateful to that man. He often lets me know how much regret he feels that he never took that man’s name down. That man’s small act of compassion has made a huge, huge difference to Henry’s life. It wasn’t just a matter of getting Henry to his job on time, or making sure Henry wasn’t late for meeting a friend, it got Henry his dream job.
It could, in theory, have been even more important. Henry’s mother could have been in the hospital, and this could have been his last chance to see her before she passed. This is an extreme example, but it illustrates the point of just how powerful small acts of compassion can be.
When I have a chance to help someone who needs me, even if it seems like a mild need, I think back to Henry’s experience. It helps me understand just how important and life-changing seemingly small acts of compassion can be. And so, whenever I see someone who evidently needs some help from me, even if providing that help will be a mild inconvenience to me, I try and give them the help they need. I don’t claim that I always help anyone, but I try to string together as many small acts of compassion and generosity as I can. Because these small acts can add up to make huge changes to the lives of others and can improve your own life enormously.