The smallest actions can have the largest impacts

On Sunday afternoon, friends came by to look at my leaking washing machine. I have been trying to decide whether it’s worthwhile to repair my nearly 20-year-old machine or just purchase a shiny new one.

So my sweet friends, who are readying themselves for their trip westward for winter, checked out my washer. While they were there, they also repaired an askew kitchen drawer by fixing the ripped out track, helped me straighten the garage bay where I normally park, and also helped me identify some of the more mysterious items that had taken up residence in my junk drawer — so I could clean that drawer out without fear of tossing something important.

There is such a thing as too MUCH help sometimes... Quincy, at age 3 months, was on a mission in the dryer. He pulled out a toy in the end that I didn't even know was in this load of wash.

There is such a thing as too MUCH help sometimes… Quincy, at age 3 months, was on a mission in the dryer. He pulled out a toy in the end that I didn’t even know was in this load of wash.

There is a lot said, and written, about “Paying it Forward.” This practice can be a small action like buying someone a cup of coffee, or a larger action like volunteering for an organization that has helped you directly in your time of need.

For me, the smallest actions, like those of my friends’, can produce the largest impacts in my life. I’ve had thoughtful co-workers, family members and friends help me with everything from ice buildups in the winter to sawing up trees damaged by high winds to getting my mail for me while I’m away from home to just popping by for a visit, and so many things in between.

Pride and a desire not to be “that widow” that’s constantly bugging people to do things makes it difficult for me to ask for assistance. But every small action gives me huge relief, not only because I no longer have to worry about getting the task done, but also because for those few minutes in my life, I no longer feel alone with my responsibilities.

While marriage lets you feel you are in a partnership for those things, widowhood makes you feel like you are a lemming perched on a cliff, just waiting to get pushed over the edge. Everything that goes wrong takes on larger-than-life proportions. Those little acts of kindness pull you back from the edge, back into a safer place.

Though the tasks that my friends helped with were each a smallish task on my to-do list, they had become large in my mind. With so many other to-dos to tackle, tasks have a way of seeming so much bigger than they really are. What a relief to be able to cross those tasks off my mental checklist. None of them were beyond my ability to handle by myself, except maybe the washer, but they felt so much easier to accomplish as a shared chore.

I not only miss the luxury of shared responsibilities that come with marriage, but I also miss the camaraderie that went with them. Jim and I could clash over the methods of doing things, but once that was worked out, we always enjoyed doing tasks together. We were an efficient team. We enjoyed each other’s company. Working side-by-side with my friends for an afternoon let me experience that memory with warmth.

As for the washer … do I stick with white? Frontload or topload? Compact or commercial? Stackable? Eeeee gads!

JULIE HARRIS

About JULIE HARRIS

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.