Ordinary People, Extraordinary Deeds

HK Economic Journal May 5, 2016 Posted in JEMS Founder's Columns

"I recently came across a children’s book entitled ‘Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed’ which is a about a little girl called Mary who, on an ordinary day, saw some ordinary blueberries and decided to pick them. She secretly left them for her neighbour, Mrs. Bishop, who then proceeded to make a batch of blueberry muffins and secretly distributed them to five people. The story continues on how each of the five people who received the delicious blueberry muffins were so touched by the anonymous act of generosity that they went to bless five other people. So each of the five, passed on the generosity and joy to five other people and by the end of the story, hundreds of lives had been touched. And it all started with one simple, ordinary act of kindness by a little girl called Mary.


This ripple effect can start with something very small but end up having a large impact. And all it takes is an ordinary person, with a heart of kindness and generosity, to do something that ends up being extraordinary.


Oftentimes, we think that we can’t make a difference because we are insignificant or that our impact is too small but everyone can make a difference and it can start with something seemingly small. And I think that this lesson has to be taught to our young children – that they have the power to make a difference in someone’s life.


Over the years, I have come across so many true stories of how young people have made a difference in the lives of people. One that stands out is a boy called Ryan Hreljac who, when he was six years old, walked to get water from his school fountain and was made aware that water was so easily accessible for him. He learnt that this wasn’t the case for many children around the world so he, at the age of six, started a fundraising campaign to raise money to build a well in a school in Africa so that children there could also have access to clean water.


Or the story of Yash Gupta, a seventeen-year-old who once broke his glasses and had to go without them for a week, only realizing how difficult life was. With that, he decided to help people who can’t afford to have glasses by going to optical shops to collect discarded and old glasses so that he could send them to countries with the most need. Since 2011, Gupta has donated 9,500 pairs of glasses, worth nearly $500,000, to young people in Haiti, Honduras, India and Mexico.


These stories are just ordinary children, with a big heart, that have made an extraordinary difference. And I truly believe that every child, no matter their age, has the potential to do the same. As parents and educators, we have the responsibility to guide and nurture them in that direction so that they can become such worthy contributors to their society.


So how does it start? Here are just some ideas:


  • Kindness should start in the home so encourage your child to show generosity and acts of kindness to family members, for example, helping grandma get her walking stick or helping dad get his briefcase for work
  • Acts of kindness can also be nurtured at school. Encourage your child to make a new friend or to reach out to someone who doesn’t have anyone to play with. If the school allows, have your child bring more snacks to school so that he/she can share them with others
  • Instead of keeping all birthday presents, invite your child to donate some to children who are less fortunate
  • Brainstorm with your child how to allocate some of their yearly ‘lai see’ money to a charity
  • Research a particular area of need locally or globally and think of one way to help, either by supporting monetarily or with in-kind goods (like Ryan and Yash above)


We are all capable of making a difference, no matter how ‘ordinary’ we are so let’s start now because it could have an extraordinary impact! "


Christine Ma-Lau
Founder & Principal
JEMS Learning House

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