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Even the smallest action can make a big difference

Several weeks ago, for one of our family nights, we decided to go see the musical "It's a Wonderful Life." For those of you who are not familiar with this theater production, the story relates the life of a young man who is faced with the decision of leaving his dreams of traveling the world behind to help his family's business and the town where he grew up.

During his life, he is repeatedly faced with economic hardship but always gives his best effort to keep his family's business afloat and help the town's economy and the people he has known since childhood. Many times, he sacrifices personal gain to defend his business and town against the interests of rich entrepreneurs.

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During one such troubling moment, he thinks about his life insurance and considers that he is worth more dead than alive. He thinks that if he commits suicide, his family and his town will be better off and will have all the money that they need. He thinks that regardless of his efforts, all the people he knows would've been better off if he hadn't been born. In that moment, his guardian angel — who has been trying for quite some time to earn his wings — appears, talks to him, and shows him what life would have been like for his loved ones and his town had he never been born.

The young man hadn't realized, until then, how important his life had been for all those that had crossed paths with him. If it weren't for him and his actions, many people in his town would've had a very different life; his whole town would've had an unfortunate story.

"It's amazing how one person's life can touch so many others," his guardian angel said.

After leaving the performance and having an amazing family time, I kept thinking about what the angel said. I thought of those words over and over and realized the meaningful truth behind them.

Somehow, we are all connected. Revisiting his life, this young man realized the big difference he made in all the people that he met, and how by helping so many people, he made a difference in the whole town. Because we are all connected, that's the truth. One way or another, our actions have a direct impact on other people's lives.

Something as simple as smiling to others in the morning as we cross a street could make an impact on another person's day. Maybe that person we shared a smile with was having a bad day, and our smile showed them that they are not alone.

When we are sitting in a waiting room and instead of being on our phones we listen to that person who wanted to start a conversation — or better yet, we start the conversation ourselves — we are making a difference in that person's life. Maybe that person feels lonely and just needs someone to listen, someone who will acknowledge them. That moment will make a difference in that person's day.

When we are in a fast food drive-thru lane and we smile and thank the drive-thru window person, we are making a difference in that person's life. Maybe they were feeling unappreciated and unimportant, and we just showed them with a simple act that we appreciate what they do.

When we have plenty of clothes sitting in our closet and we decided to donate to those in need, we are making a difference for the people who receive our donations. We might never meet them or know how many we helped with our action, but knowing that mothers and fathers in need can provide clothes for their children because of our donation makes us realize the magnitude of the difference we have made. Maybe that family we helped was close to rock bottom; maybe they felt there was no way out of their situation, and our helping hand reminded them that they are not alone and that there will always be light at the end of the tunnel.

We are all connected. The war between countries, the hunger, the economic hardship, the loss of lives — everything has an impact on our lives. Because even though we have different nationalities, we speak different languages, we have different cultures and live on different time zones, we are all one. We are all humans and we should strive to make a positive impact on all those who cross our paths, all those who we can reach one way or another.

Marta Cruz-Alicea writes every other week for the Life & Times section of the Carroll County Times.

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