I once heard a story about a little boy and his grandfather. They were quite poor and isolated. As the grandfather aged, their cottage fell deeper and deeper into disrepair. The little house was shadowy and stale. But it was home.

One day, a stranger with a sweet smile approached the boy in the park and handed him a lily then walked away. Thinking little of it, he took the lily home to his grandfather. The grandfather put the flower in a mason jar by the window.

Next to the clean jar, the window looked filthy. So the grandfather cleaned the window, which naturally invited more light into the room.

The fresh light exposed a dirty floor. The grandfather asked his grandson to sweep and mop. The sparkling window, natural light and clean floor made the mason jar appear cheap. So the grandfather took a vase from the cabinet and placed the lily back in the window.

Just one flower transformed their entire environment. The grandfather decided they needed more. He spaded dirt in the front yard and planted seeds. Soon flowers bloomed. Neighbors stopped to chat. Two became four and then eight and sixteen as an extended family grew alongside the flowers.

The lily from the stranger had died long before. But the difference it made in two people’s lives never did.

It’s a lovely story, but is it true? Can one kind act reshape lives?

Not always. But yes, it’s true. It can.

When I left for college, my grandmother began sending me notes with a $1 bill enclosed. Not $5 or $10. Just $1. The money didn’t go far, but the love and encouragement lasted.

James, the brother of Jesus, said, “What good is it if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? … Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 1:14-17)

Lots of people have strong beliefs and good intentions. Few act.

Many people are now asking, “What can I do to overcome racism, address my own prejudice, and help create a better future for others?”

Maybe it starts by seeing yourself as servant, not as someone who does occasional acts of service. The more you serve — family, neighbors, coworkers — across racial and ideological lines, the more opportunities you’ll have to do something that echoes through eternity. Even better, find someone different from you, then the two of you go serve someone else.

If you’re interested in doing something on a bigger scale, check out togetherwecan.one to find out how to work for lasting change.

Amelia Earhart said, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” If you believe it, do something.

BRENT MCDOUGAL is the senior pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist Church.  The Worship section is underwritten by Advocate Publishing and the neighborhood businesses and churches listed here. For information about helping support the Worship section, call 214.560.4202.