How Your Seemingly Small Efforts Can Lead to Remarkable Change

I had a plan to do a 6 mile hike this morning, but it was raining, and so I decided to go later. But Nicole was sick and needed some attention. Then I had to go run an errand. Then Kaitlyn was sick and needed me to get her from school. Then I got distracted. Finally, I headed out late and knew it was too late for a hike, but I could get in a walk up in the La Quinta Cove.

Crisp sky after a winter storm

Crisp sky after a winter storm

It was stunning outside after our winter storm. The snow level had dropped to about 4000 feet. The sun came out, but those storm clouds hovered over the mountains all day. With snow capped peaks and a bright blue sky, it was the rare winter day desert dwellers thrill over.

I was about a mile into my walk when I heard a pup crying. I laughed thinking he was in a yard just up ahead anxiously waiting for his owners to come home. But when I came around the bend where the houses end and the Bear Creek Wash gives away to a steep mountain ridge, I saw a small group gathered. Startled, I realized the dog wasn’t lonely but safe in his back yard. He was lost, stuck, and possibly injured somewhere up that boulder strewn mountain.

None of us could see where he was at. Everyone was clearly concerned, but what could they do? After 10 minutes of hand wringing, I set out across the wash, which thankfully wasn’t running anymore, just a little muddy. It had a steep embankment and I kept willing myself: “don’t fall, don’t fall, crap I fell, I’m good, I’m okay”. I got to the other side and scrambled up a few boulders, realizing it was like a maze. How could I find him? And I’m not exactly the person to be out here, especially as it’s starting to get dark.

Then, a very fit woman and her 20ish son struck out to find the dog, too. Her son climbed and climbed over boulders, but he could hear or see nothing. Those gathered below would give him instruction to go a little further right, or head down there. Finally, when he got to the top of a ridge, he and his mom came to the conclusion the dog was down somewhere below the ridge. The young man peered over and searched in vain because the pup had quit crying. He gave up.

It was getting really dark and we all needed to climb down these slick boulders before any of us got stuck or hurt. There was nothing any one of us could do anymore. Many neighbors heard the little guy out there and vowed to head back out in the morning. Although I left sad for the plight of this lost dog, I was encouraged that so many took pity on him and did what they could to help, especially under the circumstances.

Lost dog on top of mountain

Lost dog on top of mountain

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the parable of the one lost sheep which is found in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew:

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:1-7 ESV)

Sometimes we don’t do anything to help others because we don’t know what we can do. Sometimes, we think what we do won’t make a difference. I used to hate when people said: “If this (project, ministry, money) makes a difference in the life of one person, then it was worth it!” I would overanalyze it, thinking, if you invest millions into a project that only made a difference in the life of one person, how wasteful would that be?

Maybe you think about how you can’t do enough to help the multitudes of homeless folk or orphaned children. You wish you volunteered more time at your kid’s school or donated more money to your church or all the good organizations which are in need of financial help. Instead, of all that you can’t do to help, think about what you can do right now to make an impact on the life of one person.

Is there one special friend who is suffering from an illness who needs a few home-cooked meals, rides to doctor appointments, and someone to keep her company? Is there one child you could teach English or tutor in reading? What if you volunteered a few hours each week or month at a non-profit or your place of worship? Could you spare enough cash to support one child through an organization like Compassion?

For 13 years I have supported a girl through Compassion financially and relationally. My small financial investment saw that Meslyn received an education and now she is taking college classes to become a teacher. My letters of encouragement helped her through difficult times with her family and devastating natural disasters affecting her home in the Philippines.

I never missed the money or time I donated. I really wish I wrote more often. But every time I receive another letter from Meslyn addressed to “Mommy Vicky”, I know I helped to change the life of one person by providing for her physical needs, education, and spiritual support. I know one day Meslyn will do the same for other children when she has her own classroom.

Two days after I was up in the cove, my husband showed me a news article about some folks who went to rescue the dog. He was stuck all the way at the top of the mountain, but these relentless and brave individuals were able to bring him down safe and sound. Surely if he had been up there much longer, he would have died of exposure and starvation. It’s the craziest story of that dog climbing all the way up the mountain and getting stuck. But it’s pretty crazy too that some people would devote several days to search and rescue one dog. For this one little guy, his life is different because of the caring of a few good souls.

You can read more about the dog rescue here.

Snow covered Martinez Mountain

Snow covered Martinez Mountain


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