How To Change The World One Simple Gesture At A Time

Large acts of kindness get a lot of publicity, but sometimes the far-reaching impacts are never truly known after the story dies down in the news. On the other hand, people do small acts every day that not only make big impacts on others’ lives, but can help change the world for the better — even if only on a small scale and without widespread attention.

Millie Mims‘ constant efforts provide a great example of a smaller, more humble act of kindness. Seven days a week, she provides a healthy meal to all who ask on the boardwalk in Venice Beach, California. She prepares an eight-gallon pot of homemade soup made with fresh ingredients donated from local farmers markets and organic grocery stores, plus large portions of salad, rice, and bread. All of it is carried down the stairs from her small apartment a few miles from the boardwalk and loaded into a donated van. When she doesn’t have help, she makes several trips to carry smaller soup portions to the eight-gallon pot waiting in the van.

The year-round mild weather makes Venice a desirable location for the homeless. For regulars, Millie’s fare is often their only meal of the day. She provides dinner daily and breakfast on Saturday, come rain or shine.

Many of the volunteers who assist her were once recipients of Millie’s kindness and pay it forward by helping with the cooking and distribution. On a limited income herself, Millie often struggles to feed 100 people a day. Nevertheless, small donations keep her operation afloat, and she now serves 3,000 meals a month for about 55 cents per day.

Across the country in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 90-year-old Arnold Abbott also feeds the hungry — even if it gets him arrested. Fort Lauderdale, along with several other cities in the United States, recently passed an ordinance that restricts feeding the homeless in public. Abbott has done just that in Fort Lauderdale Park for 20 years, and his four arrests for defying the ban have garnered international attention, as detailed in The Washington Post. In December, a judge dismissed the charges and put a stay on the ban. A lawsuit claiming the ban is unconstitutional was then filed against the city. If successful, it could lead to similar bans being dismantled across the country.

Arnold Abbott simply wanted to honor his wife’s memory when he started his Love Thy Neighbor initiative in 1991. Now he has helped thousands of homeless in Broward County and may have influenced local laws.

You don’t need to think big to change the world. All it takes is devotion to a good cause, even on a small, local scale. People such as Mims and Abbott each set a simple goal to impact their communities, and every day they get closer to their goals — one bowl of soup at a time.