I carry little notebooks with me when I take walks because that is where my best writing ideas come to life. They usually start with just a few words. Sometimes those words become a poem. Sometimes that poem becomes a story. And every once in awhile, those words take on an entire life of their own. That’s exactly what happened here. What began with the words, “The world needs,” has taken me to places unimagined. I’d love to take you with me. Let’s start here:
The World Needs
The world needs more patience.
Let it begin on the floor of my home as my child struggles to tie her own shoes before school.
The world needs more kindness.
Let it begin at my kitchen counter as I bite my tongue over spilled cereal and offer a helping hand.
The world needs more hope.
Let it begin on a piece of crisp, white stationery as I write words of encouragement for a hurting soul.
The world needs more peace.
Let it begin in my heart as I decide to pick my battles and say, “I am sorry,” as often as I can.
The world needs more human connection.
Let it begin with my hands as I choose to hold on to my loved ones instead of my devices.
The world needs more compassion.
Let it begin with my feet as I walk in someone else’s shoes instead of doling out judgment and contempt.
The world needs more patience, kindness, hope, peace, human connection, and compassion. Yes, it does.
And the world is not too big, and these commodities are not too scarce.
It begins in our hearts, hands, words, and actions.
It begins with the people closest to us.
It begins with you and me.
It begins today.
As you can gather from the words above, I am a big believer in small, daily gestures of love. I believe such actions hold the power to transform our relationships, but also the world. So each day I try to make a difference by opening my arms to the ones closest to me. Most days, that is enough. Most days, that is more than enough.
But then sometimes I am called to do more.
Sometimes I am asked to open my arms to those outside my inner circle. I’ll be honest: my first reaction is resistance. I think about time, cost, and inconvenience and keep my arms tucked tightly around me.
But if I’ve learned anything on this Hands Free journey, it is this: when I feel most resistant to opening my arms is when I should open them the widest.
That is exactly what happened recently while sitting in church. My friend was telling the congregation about her endeavor to redecorate the dark and gloomy rooms of a local women’s shelter. Each of the 100 rooms housed two mothers and their children who were trying to rebuild their lives after a traumatic life experience. My friend said it was quite amazing what a little paint, some soft rugs, new towels, colorful bedding, and a bedside lamp could do to lift the women’s spirits and make them feel worthy.
As my friend invited people to adopt a room, I felt that pang of resistance. I began calculating time, cost, effort, and availability. That’s when my older daughter leaned over and whispered enthusiastically. “Let’s do it, Mom!”
I looked down and saw my arms folded tightly around my body. I knew what I must do. I opened my arms and pulled my child close. “Yes, Natalie,” I agreed. “Let’s do it.”
My daughter and I spent an afternoon shopping for items for the room makeover. I stuck to the practical things like a shower curtain and a trash can, but Natalie was drawn to the comforts—candy, bags of coffee, soft blankets, and coconut-scented shampoo. I watched as her arms filled with things that make a home a HOME.
On the day of the redecoration, we were joined by our daughters’ two best friends. I was amazed that there was no load too heavy … no dirt stain too stubborn … no bathroom bug too intimidating for these four kids. For six hours they cleaned, organized, and rearranged with vigor.
At one point, the children were folding baby clothes for the twins that lived in the room when a resident of the facility approached them. “You like helping people, don’t you? I can tell,” she said matter-of-factly.
I stood back and watched as I thought about the woman’s unusual compliment. Perhaps it was the children’s friendly smiles or the enthusiasm they put into folding onesies that identified them as “helpers.” But in the end, I think it was their wide, open arms that distinguished them as givers who make the world a better place.
I vowed to remember the powerful impact of outstretched arms despite my initial thoughts that almost discouraged me from helping. But in case I needed one more confirmation, I received an email message from a mother of one of Natalie’s classmates.
“Please tell Natalie thank you for me. I was tucking my child in bed and she was telling me about her day. She said they watched a movie in class and Natalie was the only one who let my daughter sit in her lap. She is our cuddly and nurturing child who feels safer when tucked in a lap, even at ten-years-old. She said that Natalie held her for the whole movie and that it was the best day because of that one thing.”
If I didn’t know it before, I know it now: the world needs more open arms.
And even the strong …
They all need more open arms.
And we have them. My friends, we have them. Sometimes that is all that we have.
But it is enough.
It is more than enough.
Let us begin wherever we are.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the words “the world needs” have taken on a life of their own over the past few weeks. I feel compelled to share one last experience in case someone is looking for a way to open their arms:
Around the time my family was preparing to redecorate a room at the women’s center, a dear friend reached out to me. Emily Wierenga is a gifted author and journalist who writes about her life-changing experiences in Uganda on her blog. She told me how she was working to raise funds to build and outfit three rescue homes for orphaned babies in the Ugandan slums. I sat down with my daughters and we read about the project, the children, and watched the video here.
Both of my daughters were amazed by the fact that these once unloved and malnourished children living among trash were now being given love, shelter, nourishment, education, and hope simply by coming to live in one of these rescue homes. They immediately wanted to help.
My detail-oriented older daughter began planning a lemonade stand to raise money for more rescue homes. My musically inclined younger daughter began working on a lullaby for the housemothers to sing to the babies. She was so involved in this project that she begged me to stay up until it was complete. She wrote the song, “Don’t Worry, Little One,” and created a melody to go with it. Take a listen:
The girls each collected $5 and made a $10 donation here. Interestingly, the tears and angst we were feeling about our family’s upcoming move to a new state have subsided as we have focused this project. There’s something about making a home a home for another human being that brings peace to your heart. There is something about making a home a home for another human being that brings peace to the world.
Friends, in light of this post, World Help has lowered the suggested donation amount from $75 to $10 this week to make it easier for more adults and more children to open their arms and transform a child’s life. Smaller donations and lullabies are also welcomed and greatly appreciated. You can donate any amount here and send lullabies to: email@example.com.
I will update you on the impact of The Hands Free Revolution community on the Rescue Home project next week!
Wishing you a blessed Easter, friends. Thank you for making the world a better place.