Editor's Note: Today's post comes from Michele Weber Hurwitz, author of newly-released The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days. Check out the book trailer for this bighearted middle grade novel.
When I was in kindergarten, I was really little. Skinny, the shortest kid in the class, witha head full of curly hair. My mom would buy me billowy dresses to make me look less scrawny. In a park district production of Jack and the Beanstalk, I was cast as the giant. Apparently, the director knew what he was doing. My “fee-fi-fo-fum” got laughs every time.
As I learned to read, I delighted in finding stories about small kids who do big things. I remember one in particular about a girl who was able to retrieve a ring that was stuck inside a piano because she had such tiny hands. And another about “the littlest majorette” (really), who led the Fourth of July parade in her town.
Thankfully, I’m a respectable five foot three now. But those childhood moments and favorite stories never left me, and somewhere along the line, I realized that small is actually quite big. Huge, in fact.
I’m talking about the power of small things and the great impact they can have on us and on others.
I don’t have to tell you we live in a world with a great many overwhelming problems, ones that can seem insurmountable. While I greatly admire people who make enormous efforts to repair the world, most of us are steeped in the tasks of daily life: jobs and kids and aging parents and bills to pay. But we can make a difference, too. And it’s easy. Because whether you’re tall or short, young or old, rich or poor, we all possess the power of small.
At the end of the day, ask yourself what stuck with you, what resonated in your heart. Maybe someone held a door open when your arms were full of grocery bags, or shared tomatoes from their garden, or made you laugh when you were feeling bad. Perhaps a driver waved you in when you were waiting to turn on a traffic-heavy street, or a coworker brought you coffee when he got his own.
A gesture, perhaps. A kindness. A moment. Something that made you stop and notice.
It was those kinds of small acts that inspired my novel for ages 10 to 14, The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days, published today by Wendy Lamb Books.
Nina Ross, who is feeling kind of lost the summer after she graduates from middle school, sets out to do 65 secret good things for her neighbors and family to find out if doing good really does any good. Although her efforts spiral into humorous chaos as people react in ways she didn’t anticipate, Nina begins to understand just how significant—and transforming—those efforts are.
Among the 65 things, Nina plants marigolds for a widow who has broken her leg, bakes brownies for a reclusive neighbor, and sews a little boy’s ripped superhero cape. Nina isn’t an overachiever, and in the beginning of the story, she admits she has never been the kind of person who goes out of her way to help others. “I think a lot of people are like that,” she says. “They let someone else take care of it.”
But something changes inside Nina as she remembers the parting words of her eighth-grade history teacher: “It is very often the ordinary things that go unnoticed that end up making a difference,” he tells the class. “As you embark upon your high school careers, be unnoticed, but be remarkable.”
She sets out to do just that. (I’d like to note that Nina, by the way, is five foot one.)
While I can’t say that I’ve always been as determined as Nina to forge ahead with a good thing, I firmly believe that if we all were a little kinder than necessary—as the saying by Scottish author J.M. Barrie goes—the world would be a nicer place to live.
And I think in the face of everything happening in the world today, the power of small gestures offers something very important: hope. The hope that we can make things better, that we can support each other in tough times, that we’re in this human race together.
Many people already know this and are doing good every day. Join them. I’m willing to bet that in your part of the world, there are 65 small things waiting for you.
Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both published by Wendy Lamb Books. Visit her website at micheleweberhurwitz.com, and find her on Twitter @MicheleWHurwitz.