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Little things mean a lot

Published November 14. 2009 09:00AM

Somewhere out there today someone will do something spectacular for others.

Perhaps it will be someone who donates money for a new hospital wing or someone like a friend of mine who used his money to endow a medical college.

In cases like that, it will "make the papers," as the saying goes. The media loves a story about someone using his money for the good of others.

Somewhere out there today, perhaps in your own home, someone will also do something for others, something so small they might not think it matters.

I'm telling you a story today to show you how little things we can do can mean a great deal.

The story was told to me by Margaret, a woman I met while doing a story on a Christian Support group.

Members told me the support group is sometimes the only place where they find someone who truly understands and cares.

Margaret, a small woman in her 70s, came to the support group because she had just lost her husband of 50 years. Her two sons live far away and never come to visit. Nor do they take her up on her suggestions that she fly to visit them. Feeling very much alone and hungry to hear a human voice, she came to the support group, even though she belongs to no church.

She wanted to share her story with me so people know how much little things matter to others.

One day while she was making the bed, Margaret fell and broke her hip.

"I laid there in pain, unable to move. I kept screaming for someone to come help me, but there was no one who could hear," she said. "I screamed until I lost my voice."

Too far away from the phone and unable to move, all Margaret could do was lay there and pray that somehow someone would come to her door and realize something was wrong.

"I laid there for two days," said Margaret. "I peed my pants because what else could I do? My mouth was so dry and I longed for water. But all I could do is lay there and think I was going to die."

She said she remembered reading stories about people who were found dead in their homes only after their bodies started to rot and someone noticed the smell.

"I thought that would happen to me."

Finally, she saw the telephone wire running along her floorboards and used her fingers to pry the wire loose enough to allow her to pull the telephone to her. After calling 911, she got the help she needed.

After she healed physically, she joined the support group that is helping her to heal emotionally. But here's the small thing that keeps her going: Someone from the group calls her every day to make sure she is all right.

Such a small thing. A phone call. But to Margaret, it's like a life preserver.

Now, Margaret reaches out to help others by making daily phone calls.

"Those few minutes I spend on the phone might be the only voice someone hears that day," she said. "And I feel good knowing I'm doing something good for someone else."

As the song says, "Little Things Mean a Lot."

An elderly woman on our street is too frail to move her garbage cans to the street for our weekly pickup. The teenage boy who lives next door does it for her. He doesn't realize he's a hero to his neighbor.

My friend Linda delivers Meals on Wheels to those who can't cook for themselves. When she learned about an elderly woman having a birthday, she and a friend went there with a cake.

My friend Martha works as a hospital cook then comes home and helps her husband with his lawn cutting business. She could say she is "too busy" to do more.

Instead, Martha drives each week to pick up prescriptions and run errands for two different elderly women. When she cooks, she also makes extra for another elderly woman on her block.

My friend Patrick, who lost his job and is struggling to get by, still remembers to cut his neighbor's grass because the man is in a wheelchair and can't do it himself.

These Every Day Heroes will never have the news media show up at their door to highlight their good deeds. But they need to know it is the "small stuff" that sometimes keeps us going.

A long time ago a plate of cookies did exactly that for me. I had just come back from the hospital after learning my husband was stricken with his third case of cancer.

Feeling weak and alone, I pulled into my driveway and saw a white paper plate at my doorstep. An acquaintance baked cookies and wrote a small note saying she wanted me to know she cared.

She never will never know how much that plate of cookies meant to me or how much it gave me the courage to push onward.

A phone call. A casserole. A plate of cookies all small stuff.

But small stuff looms big in the lives of others.

And as Margaret noted, it feels good when you step outside of yourself and do something nice for others.

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