“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”

Oscar Wilde

In a quaint, somewhat disheveled seaside town, where the seagulls had the audacity of muggers and the ice cream always tasted slightly of salt, lived a man named Simon. Simon was a dreamer, the kind who would spend hours crafting elaborate plans for self-improvement, community projects, and occasionally, schemes to get rich quick involving alpacas. His latest obsession, however, was a bit more poetic: sending messages in bottles.

One blustery Tuesday, Simon, armed with a recycled bottle and a dream, scribbled a note that read, “To the finder: Change the world. Start with kindness.” He sealed the note in the bottle with a dramatic flourish, as if he were bottling the secret to world peace. With a heave that would make a shot-putter proud, Simon launched the bottle into the waves.

Days turned into weeks, and Simon’s life continued in its usual pattern: grand plans followed by a distinct lack of follow-through. He was great at the ‘thinking up’ part, but the ‘doing’ part always seemed just out of reach.

Meanwhile, the bottle bobbed along on the currents, embarking on an adventure Simon could only dream of. It traveled past bored seagulls, curious dolphins, and even a particularly judgmental octopus, until it finally washed up on a distant shore, where a young girl named Lily found it while collecting seashells.

Lily, unlike Simon, was a doer. She read the note and took it to heart. Instead of planning grand gestures of world change, she started small. She helped her neighbor carry in groceries. She picked up litter on her way to school. She even started a club for kindness at her school, where they did little things to make their community better.

Word of Lily’s actions spread, inspiring others to do small acts of kindness. The town, once known for its grumpy seagulls and salty ice cream, became known for its friendly faces and helping hands.

Back in his seaside town, Simon heard about a distant place transformed by a simple message in a bottle. He realized then that while his intentions were grand, it was the small acts of kindness, like Lily’s, that truly made a difference.

So, Simon decided to change. He started small, helping his neighbor fix a fence, volunteering at the local shelter, and yes, finally starting that alpaca farm, but this time for wool donations.

The moral of the story? While it’s easy to get lost in grand intentions and messages in bottles, it’s the small acts of kindness, the little things we do every day, that truly have the power to change the world. And sometimes, it takes seeing our dreams reflected in someone else’s actions to understand that.

As for the seagulls, they remained audacious, but even they seemed to squawk a little friendlier these days.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.