Small Acts (by Guest Blogger Mary Meriwether)

I can’t go into specifics –what’s said in class, stays in class kind of thing– but one of the people in my community partner site told a story that’s really stuck with me. It wasn’t long a long story.  It was simply a kind act from an unexpected quarter, but it was an act that stuck with her and meant enough to her so that she would tell a class about it a couple years later.

Part of the reason it stuck with me is the way she expressed the emotions she’d felt at the time, how it’d made her stop and think. That small act had been simple, yet effective. Perhaps more effective than a big one would have been.

Big doesn’t always mean better, especially in education. For instance, early intervention programs that catch reading difficulties or health screenings that can catch potential problems are much more effective than programs that try to solve those problems several years down the road when much more time and effort is needed to do what could have been done much more easily before.


5 thoughts on “Small Acts (by Guest Blogger Mary Meriwether)

  1. Hey Mary,
    Tutoring at PYB has been an overall rewarding experience, but you are right, it is the little things that make it truly worthwhile. While leaving two weeks ago, I walked past the College Algebra classroom that was getting ready to start. One of the students was waiting by the door and saw me approaching. He stuck out his hand to shake mine and said how glad he was to see I was coming back to the class, as I had really helped him the previous week. Of course, I felt bad since I was leaving for the day! But I explained I would be back next week, and he was happy with that. So many of the students there are genuinely glad to be getting the help that we provide, it makes it easy to go back. And I definitely plan on staying on as a tutor after the Capstone project finishes.

    • So happy to hear that you’re thinking of staying on, Chris. Long-term work with a community partner is the best for students and volunteers…it is the way to make real change in ourselves and in our community.

  2. It’s so true that the smallest things can sometimes cause a ripple effect, especially at PYB. I feel like just having us be there regularly has a steadying effect on the students. Just last week, a student asked if we had met before, because he didn’t remember me. I had remembered his name, and a paper that he had written a couple weeks before, and when I told him as much, his whole face lit up. He was so pleased by something so small. I just remembered him, and yet it was clearly important to him that someone had remembered who he was, and what he was about. Sometimes, it seems like the smallest, most unintentional things are the most powerful.

  3. I think this is something a lot of people need to remember when considering volunteering their time. Many people think that since they cannot make a long term commitment or only do a little, that they just shouldn’t even bother at all. But like you said, often times it is the little acts that stick with us the longest. Maybe you can only volunteer once a month, but who knows, maybe on that one day of the month that you are there you will be the exact help that someone needed that day. Maybe you brightened someone’s day just by being there. Unfortunately, while these little acts can sometimes be so important to someone, they often go unnoticed by the person perpetrating them. We often do not know the effect we are having someone unless it is noticeable in a big way. So, don’t discount yourself and your efforts because you can’t do a lot or wish you could do more. Giving even a little bit can sometimes make the biggest difference in the long run. And you’ll never know unless you try.

  4. Mary,

    I think you’re absolutely right. The little things matter and many people do not take the time to think on this. Whether it’s buying someone a meal, giving them a dollar out of your pocket, or just listening to a friend when they are feeling down, it’s those little things that matter.
    In reference to our volunteering, I am inclined to believe that the work we do could be negated. I think that if someone had made an intervention at an early point in these students’ lives, things would be different. How much different? I could not truly answer the question. But if perhaps someone had kept them in school a bit longer, encouraged them to try a bit harder, who knows the possibilites that could have stemmed from that.
    I can point to several points in my life where just little words of encouragement pushed me through difficult situations, both in school and in life. In relation to our volunteering, we must keep this in mind. Give encouragement, support the positive, and make the little things matter.


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