Did you get that letter I intended to write you? Did you hear that voicemail I meant to leave on your phone? Did you taste that meal I wanted to drop off to your family in your time of need? No, you didn’t. These days, I can’t seem to get anything done. They say, “It’s the thought that matters.” Boy, I hope so because, for now, the thought is all I can seem to manage.
Let’s be real. When it comes to personalities, I’m Type A all the way. I feel secure when I have a schedule and know what to expect. Without a plan, I feel chaotic. And yet here I find myself, the mother of three young children, humbled by the unpredictability of each passing day. I have learned to adapt out of sheer necessity for survival. But it’s not in my comfort zone and it stretches me beyond my limit.
I’ll never forget the first time I was humbled in this way. It was the summer after my 17th birthday. I spent the month of July in Africa, living with a Ghanaian family, working in an orphanage. I volunteered with the American Field Service (AFS). I flew to Ghana with 28 other American teenagers I had just met for the first time, with expectations of “leaving my mark”. I thought we would build schools. I thought we would have something palpable to take pictures of- to illustrate the difference we made while we were there. Halfway through the trip, I broke down. All we did every single day was play with the orphans. As much as we tried to teach, there were no books, very limited writing materials and zero structure. So mostly we held the little ones, played sports with the older ones and sang songs with all of them.
It wasn’t until my last week that I realized our impact could not be seen, rather felt. There was no building to photograph our completion of nor any test papers to illuminate the academic growth of our students. How does one measure love? Kindness? Empathy? Only through thoughts and actions.
What I started to learn 16 years ago, I continue to learn today. Sometimes we cannot do it all. Sometimes we cannot produce a product that can be seen, heard, or tasted. Sometimes, it’s just the thought that counts.
And you know what? Sometimes that’s enough.