As you may recall, we began the month of March with one of my favorite writings on attitude and how we approach each day. To close this two-part series, I’d like to share this second writing by Etienne de Grellet, a French-born American Quaker missionary. He writes, “I expect to pass this way but once; any good therefore I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now.”
If you’ll think back to the first column of this month, you will remember it focused on making the most of each day we’re given, because we exchange a day of our lives for the events of it. This week, we should discuss just what is a worthwhile exchange in that transaction. Perhaps you tire of one particular subject I return to often, but it is so critical, and yet so lacking in our world, that I find it prudent to revisit it from time to time. That subject is, of course, kindness. Showing kindness to our fellow man is the ultimate exchange in our daily transaction of life. Even the smallest acts of kindness are critically important because they are multiplied by others in turn, growing exponentially.
I’m reminded of a tale of a poor, hungry peasant boy who went to his king to strike a bargain. He asked if the king might give to him just one grain of rice today, twice as much tomorrow, and double that (four grains) on the following day. He further asked if the king would continue that doubling pattern for one month. The king thought the boy foolish, knowing that a handful of rice would make no difference to his massive stores, and readily agreed. Even the young lad’s hungry family scoffed at the deal. And true, after the first week, the boy had only amassed a total of 127 grains of rice, not nearly enough to provide for himself or his family. But by the second week, the king’s men began to notice their stores dwindling. The boy was forced to bring wheelbarrows with him to collect his day’s ration. If you do the math (if I did it correctly), on the 30th day, the king presented the boy with 536,870,912 grains of rice, making his grand total for the month 1,073,741,823 grains. (I wonder whose job it was to count the rice?) Each grain of rice weighs a fraction of a gram; however, by the month’s end, the boy had amassed over 68,000 pounds of rice. To put that in perspective, one pound of uncooked rice will feed 11 people. (I hope you appreciate the amount of time I took running these numbers for you!) The young boy was able to feed not only his family, but his entire village, even though he began with only a tiny grain of rice.
I hope this illustrates the fact that the tiniest kindness shown today may be doubled by the recipient tomorrow, and if continued, you’d be surprised to see your world dramatically changed in only a month. The missionary ends his quote with these words, “Let me not defer or neglect [showing kindness], for I shall not pass this way again.” We shall not pass by this dreaded month of March again for another year, but I hope the lessons we’ve discussed within the course of this one will last a lifetime. Stay well, my friends.