In these small moments, the joy of giving shines

I’m someone who’s always been very involved with her community. Whether it’s serving on the board of organizations whose values align with my own, attending neighborhood events, shopping local or supporting other initiatives that promote sustainable living, I love being a part of something that has an impact beyond my personal world. To me, giving back has always been essential to living not only a more joyful life but a life that’s worthwhile.

Yet, for all those bigger time and energy investments, I’m often struck by how many small moments present us with the opportunity to make a difference — right where we are.

This past summer, for instance, I had a bumper crop of peppers and plum tomatoes. When one of my neighbors, Miss Sadie, came over to borrow some fresh basil, I gave her some of my harvest to take home. Miss Sadie is wonderful. She is always looking out for me: closing my garage door when I’ve left it open on my way to work, letting me know what’s happening on the block and being there with a recommendation whenever I want to know who the best repair guy is. I was really happy to be able to give her something. A week or so later, again overloaded with produce I wasn’t going to be able to eat myself, I left some at her door while she was out.

Not long after that, during a big storm, a branch fell from one of the trees lining our street into another neighbor’s yard. I knew they didn’t have the tools to be able to cut it down since they don’t have any trees on their property, and hiring a tree service would be expensive. So, I went over with my chainsaw and tree trimmers and cut up the giant branch into logs they could use for firewood while bundling the smaller ones for kindling. Before I bought my home, I used to rent their house from them while they were living in New York City. They were fantastic, always there to help me out, especially when I needed to extend my lease until the remodeling was finished on my new home. Now they have a growing family — their son Miles is two — and with full-time jobs, managing stuff around the house, like that fallen tree branch, can be a lot for them.

It was while I was in their yard that Miss Sadie popped by to share how thankful she was for the produce I’d left at her door. What’s even better is that she is a professional chef and has her own catering business so all of those vegetables went to good use. Of course, she didn’t just stop to say “thanks.” She also wanted to make sure everything was OK in my world, asked how my folks were and what I planned to do for Thanksgiving that year.

It’s just really nice to know I live next door to such incredible people and we all help one another.

In our busy lives, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the thought of giving back in a meaningful way. But right on my little block, in the space of a week, I was able to be of service with what I could give right then and there. That not only felt deeply rewarding. It reminded me of how we build community, one small act of caring at a time.


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