What Difference Can a Day Make?
by Hal Donaldson
August 25, 1969—7:35 p.m. A persuasive knock catapulted my two brothers and me and our babysitter to the door. We were greeted by two uniformed police officers who had come to deliver a message: our parents’ car had been hit head-on by a drunken driver. Dad was dead and Mom was fighting for her life.
Like a flash mob, friends and neighbors gathered in the front yard. One of the officers stepped onto the porch and addressed the crowd. “Are there any family members or friends here who will take responsibility for the children tonight?” he asked.
A young couple—Bill and Louvada Davis—volunteered. But the one-night sleepover lasted longer than anyone could have imagined. For many months—while Mom recovered from fractures and internal injuries—we lived with the Davises and their children in a single-wide trailer. There weren’t enough beds to accommodate ten people, so we took turns sleeping on the floor. The Davises sacrificed their privacy and drained their savings account so four children could have a place to live.
One day in 1994, I made a decision that would change the course of my life. It began with a couple of simple questions: What if a person was led by kindness and took his eyes off himself and focused on the needs of others? What difference could he really make? I wasn’t trying to walk the red carpet to sainthood; I was just grabbing my backpack and setting out to explore whether what the Bible said was true: “Whoever goes hunting for what is right and kind finds life itself” (Prov. 21:21).
The impact of my decision was immediate. Like a magnet, kindness pulled me toward spiritual transformation. With each passing day, selfishness became more distasteful and selflessness more satisfying. I was far from perfect, but I found myself searching for ways to serve others and offer hope and encouragement. Along with my two brothers and several friends, we began loading pickup trucks and U-Haul trailers with groceries and supplies and distributing them to poor working families in California. We didn’t know it then, but that was the first step toward Convoy of Hope, Inc.—a global humanitarian relief organization that has since served more than eighty million people.
My decision was inspired by the Davises’ decision. They could have said they didn’t have enough money or space to rescue four kids. They could have shed a tear and simply walked away. Instead, they moved beyond excuses and pity to action. They made our tragedy their own and hitched their happiness to ours.
One decision can change the course of your life and the lives of others too. Maybe you desire more happiness and purpose, but you feel trapped, helpless, and overwhelmed. You’re running on life’s treadmill of to-do lists and unrealistic expectations. The speed is escalating and the slope elevating.
You’ve said, “If only I could set a different course.”
The decision before you is a door. But only you can decide whether to turn the handle and venture into the life you always wanted. By taking the first step, you’re vowing to do the next act of kindness in front of you . . . until it becomes who you are. You’re saying you want to leave self-centeredness behind and invest in the lives of others. In other words, you want twenty-four hours of kindness to become a lifestyle.
Along the journey, you will discover that each day is filled with new opportunities to make the world a little kinder: opening a door, flashing a smile, saying “Thank you,” letting others go first, apologizing for a mistake, paying for a meal, complimenting the waiter, greeting a stranger, giving a kid a high-five, and much more. On the surface, these actions appear insignificant, but collectively they have the power to change everything.
Perhaps you’ve accepted the lie that one person can’t make a difference in a world where hatred seizes the headlines and anger marches through the streets. After all, the enemies of kindness are fierce, and you’re only one person. But what if every person was a relentless force for good? Overnight, a revolution of kindness would dethrone a culture of greed and self-centeredness. The world would be a different place.
You have more power and influence than you think. You might not be able to negotiate global peace treaties or singlehandedly stem the tide of hunger and disease. But, through your kindness, you can change your home, workplace, school, and community. You can be part of a growing movement, where kindness offers hope, heals wounds, combats loneliness, and restores what is broken. You can change the world by becoming an agent of kindness and compassion.
Excerpted from Your Next 24 Hours by Hal Donaldson with Kirk Noonan. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017. Used by permission. www.BakerPublishingGroup.com
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