Editor's note: This article was originally published on Ben Arkell's blog. It has been republished here with permission.
Everyone wants to change the world, right? Or am I the only one? The older I get the more I'm resigned to the fact that I'm not going to be in the NBA, (that ship has sailed) I won't be the next Warren Buffett, and I'm not going to invent some cool gadget like Steve Jobs.
The realization of all this, combined with an experience I had with an old man and ice cream, has changed my perspective of success. My wife's grandfather lost his wife about 20 years ago, after 50 years of marriage. He's still kickin', having just had his 97th birthday in August. One of the things I like to do with my kids is visit him. My kids are so fun and cute and we all have a blast. We laugh, the kids sing for him, we clean his dishes, take out his trash, and even walk over to the store and buy him groceries.
Just as we were about to leave he would ask, "Who wants ice cream?" Of course, my kids would all cheer and follow their hobbling grandpa into the kitchen so he could scoop them out some. He would fumble in the sink to find a spoon and would always gripe about how hard it was to get the ice cream out.
After a few visits like this, a few things happened. One, my kids started to expect ice cream and would ask for it the minute we walked in the door, and two, I realized that the poor old spoon great grandpa used to scoop out the ice cream was not cutting it.
I had an idea! I was going to buy him a nice and sturdy ice cream scoop. The amazing part was I actually followed through! The next time we stopped to visit, we unveiled his brand new ice cream spatula. We're not talking some low quality scoop here - it was pretty much the Harley Davidson of ice cream spatulas! And he was EXCITED.
It was one of the times in life when you do something you feel like you should, and it makes you feel wonderful. But I never imagined the impact it would have on that old man. Every time after that, whenever we'd go over to his home and line up for ice cream, he'd pull out his sturdy ice cream spatula, look at me and say with a smirk, "You got this for me, huh."
This small event in my life helped me realize that I don't need to change the world. That's a pretty lofty goal and not within my reach. My new goal? Change the world for someone. As small and insignificant as my efforts were, it meant the world to great grandpa. The cool thing is, I'll never truly understand the full impact of what I did, but every time I think of him and this ice cream spatula, I'm reminded of Mother Theresa, who captured the essence of this story when she said:
"We can do no great things - only small things with great love." What small act of kindness can you offer that will change someone's world? Believe me, someone's waiting!