Pulling up to the departures area at Baltimore Washington International airport, I put my car in park so I could say goodbye to my 16-year-old niece, Ellei. Having just completed a two-week internship with a world-class surgeon, she was excited to get back, share about her experience, and prepare for her future.
With the car in park, I grabbed for my door when Ellei got my attention, pulled out her last fifteen bucks and handed it to me, saying, “Here, this is for your swim.” (Quick side note: she’s could really use those fifteen dollars.) As you can imagine, my heart was in my throat and I nearly refused to accept the gift. Fifteen dollars may not be a lot for some, but it was all she had.
“Why don’t we go with five,” I suggested, as I swallowed hard to avoid the eruption of tears in the face of her generosity. “And, how about I send you the link so your name appears on my roster of donors?”
“Okay,” she said with a beautiful smile stretched ear-to-ear.
To make good on my promise, I pulled over moments later and texted her the link.
Later that evening, tears rolled down my face as I explored the depth of emotion I felt from her simple gift. It wasn’t the money that got me (it could have been ten cents)—it was the gesture her contribution represented. Even though she didn’t say these words, I heard—
“I see you pushing through the difficulty of swimming such long distances in preparation for your 5-mile open water swim.”
“I hear you working hard to raise funds, and it doesn’t seem easy.”
“I want you to know that I believe in you, your success matters to me, and I support you.”
A simple, honest, and incredibly kind gesture that left me feeling loved and fortunate to have her in my life.
We all want to leave a legacy of some kind, but we often fall into the trap of thinking we haven’t done enough, or have enough, to make a difference. It’s easy to become overwhelmed. But what if making a difference (or leaving a legacy) is more often about these tiny moments of big heart, which ultimately change the course of people’s lives?
What simple actions can you take today (or this week) to communicate—I see, hear, and support you—to your team and colleagues? Your gesture doesn’t have to be big to make a big impact. Such simple acts of kindness—making an important introduction for a colleague, writing a testimonial (or letter of recommendation), helping them get the training they need to advance, lending an extra hand during difficult times, or simply tossing a few bucks into their fundraiser—strengthens trust, communication and dedication to excellence. I know it did for me.
Here’s to your greatness,