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Mrs. Messer taught me I could do good in the world. She was the Junior Girl Scout leader who took our troop camping out under the stars, hiking to lakes, and most memorably, doing service. Our gaggle of pre-teen girls stood outside grocery stores asking for donations to the local food pantry. We marched in the Memorial Day parade to honor veterans. We sang to senior citizens in nursing homes on special holidays. 

At the time, I didn’t think a nine-year-old had much to offer. Yet, in the middle of our caroling, one woman near the back looked deeply moved. I was shocked. Why was she crying? As we left later, the same woman took my hand and thanked me with tears sparkling in her eyes. I still didn’t understand. For my singing? 

Today I know that my gift was my presence, offering the connection we all crave, no matter our age. In giving us these opportunities, Mrs. Messer showed me that we could improve people’s lives just by showing up with them. The act of offering our time and talents from love was enough.

I often think of that moment in the nursing home when the Americans of Conscience team produces a Checklist. Behind each action we feature are real human hearts. Even if we can’t solve all the world’s ills, we can act in solidarity with people whose wheelchairs get broken by airlines. We can speak up with people strategically excluded from voting in US elections. We can say thank you to courageous and compassionate leaders.

We make each other’s lives better not with grand gestures but by remembering that we belong to each other. It is our small acts of solidarity with one another that lead to change.

I’m grateful that Mrs. Messer gave time from her busy life to improve mine. Years later, her legacy lives on in my work and encourages me to show up when times are hard. Even if you don’t sing in public or march in parades, I hope you’ll join us in doing small acts with love from this week’s Checklist.

Also, I’m preparing a talk this month about climbing steep “hills” like climate, injustice, and polarization. Please join me on Friday, April 8, 2022 from 10:30-12pm Pacific. There is no cost to attend, and contributions are welcome, and a recording will be available. To get details, just send a message to