Editor’s note: This column by the late Bev Davis originally was published Nov. 13, 2002. Davis passed away Aug. 1, 2010, of a sudden illness.
Remember the fable of the lion and the mouse? Caught in the lion’s paw, the tiny mouse begged for mercy. He faithfully promised the huge predator that if the lion would not eat him, the mouse would one day repay the favor.
The lion roared with laughter, amused that a mouse could believe he could ever be of help to the king of beasts.
Nevertheless, the lion — full from a recent meal — let the mouse go. Some time later, the lion was caught in a snare set by hunters. Tangled in ropes, he roared frantically with no hope of survival. The mouse heard the lion’s pitiful pleas for help, and before the lion even knew what was happening, the faithful mouse was chewing away feverishly at the ropes. Soon, the lion was free.
The moral of Aesop’s story — “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
How many times have you taken a small favor for granted? How often have you trivialized a friend’s efforts to help you? How many times have you done a favor for someone expecting something in return?
Our memories are fickle, and if you’re like I am, I can think of far too many times I have done all of the above.
The truth is, small favors mean a lot. They are the tiny threads that bind our lives together.
Someone saves us precious time by running an errand for us. Another helps us finish a big job on time by giving up some of their own personal time. Someone else takes the time to show us an easier way to accomplish a task.
All gestures of generosity. All forgotten so quickly.
In lifestyles where events of the day pass us at the speed of light, it’s tough to take the time to be thankful enough to let people know how much we appreciate their help and thoughtful enough to look for ways to return their favors.
Not tit-for-tat, but out of a sense of returning value for value.
Maybe the key lies in a little girl’s answer to the teacher’s question, “What is listening?”
“It’s wanting to hear something,” the student replied.
Wanting to hear. Wanting to see. Wanting to remember.
For me, it all goes back to living in a spirit of true gratitude. Having a thankful heart all the time. Focusing on the blessings, not the burdens, the harvest, not the hard times.
When I keep that focus, it’s much easier to be truly appreciative when someone performs a small favor for me, and I’m more vigilant about finding a way to do something small and unexpected when they need a boost.
The important thing to remember is Aesop’s conclusion — even if a favor goes unnoticed or unreturned, it is never wasted.
The next time you’re inclined to perform a small kindness and hesitate because of some selfish motive, remember that only two things are really important — your motive and the fact that this opportunity to help that person in that particular way may never come again.
Don’t blow the chance to sew some tiny threads into the fabric of someone else’s life. Those threads may one day become part of a safety net that protects that person long after you’re out of the picture.