One of the most important customer survey questions I find is the one that asks people to name a small thing someone did that made a lasting impression. Some examples I have read in surveys – a nurse remembered to ask after a patient’s mother a week after they spoke briefly in a lift; a waiter had ready an obscure bottle of wine for a customer that they’d discussed 3 months earlier; and a high school teacher sent a handwritten note to a family when their son graduated university. All of these are seemingly small things, but they really mattered to both the person who did it and the person they did it for. It’s genuine human connection and proof that making a small effort can make a big, lasting impact. You should never underestimate how that little thing you do for another person can resonate for hours, days or more.
I was thinking about exactly this recently while waiting on a transit bus at Sydney airport. I moved over to offer a young mother and her 8-week old baby a seat. Then I offered to carry one of her bags because she looked so tired. Turned out they were catching the same long-haul plane as me, so I held the baby through the crowded customs and security and as we ran to the gate with minutes to spare. There, the young woman burst into tears – she had been dreading this trip, had barely slept and was praying for divine intervention when she realised her delayed plane meant she might miss the international connection. She presumed me, my express line pass, lack of hand luggage and (very keen) willingness to hold a tiny baby were proof of a miracle! I just happened to be thinking precisely about how much small gestures count. Coincidence? Maybe. That one, crowded hour together has since brought me a great friendship with a family from across the world.
None of us can fully know another person’s burden, journey or challenge. We don’t need to, either. Sometimes approaching another person with just a little care is enough to make a long lasting difference and it’s certainly a more fulfilling way to go about even the most mundane day. You may never know how much your smallest gesture matters. I guarantee that it will make you happier, all the same.