Are We Doing Enough Good?

I read an excellent short post by Bruce Kasanoff  (Am I Doing Enough Good?) this morning about doing enough good for others.

His premise was that there are all kinds of good works, and he wasn’t sure that some of his actions were “good” enough. Funny how those who do so much for others so often question themselves (eyes on you, Bruce!).

But what is “enough good,” anyway?

Are we sometimes judging ourselves too harshly?

Do we ever give up, thinking that one person can’t make a significant change in the world?

But if we take a minute to reflect, we realize how powerful one voice can become, even though it’ll always start in a small way.

Did Abraham Lincoln know as a young man he’d be the President of the United States and be remembered for the Gettysburg Address?

Could Martin Luther King, Jr., ever have thought as a young black man in the south he’d lead a march on Washington, D.C., and start the modern American Civil Rights Movement with his “I Have a Dream!” speech?

How about Mahatma Gandhi? He trained to be a lawyer, for heaven’s sake, not a prophet. Not the leader of a nonviolent movement. Not a man whose very name evokes the spirit of the righteous, of religious tolerance.

Did Jonas Salk ever think he’d be part of a group that would create the first vaccine for polio, saving countless millions of lives?

Can we even begin to imagine where Greta Thunberg might be in 10 or 20 years, assuming our small blue planet still sustains life as we know it?

It’s unlikely that any of us will reach those heights, but we don’t need to, do we? We can choose to make a small difference in our own neighborhoods, helping local families with everything from having enough food (donating to food pantries) to clothing (charitable outlets) to helping build affordable housing (Habitat for Humanity).

We can purchase a few extra cans of vegetables or extra pairs of socks and donate them. We can offer our time – and money, if we have it to spare – and serve in organizations that help others climb the ladder to a better life.

We can give a hand up, not a handout.

We can decide to buy more responsibly, waste less, and recycle everything possible.

We can read a book to a child and maybe ignite a love of reading and learning.

We can find support for a neighbor who’s overwhelmed with caring for a sick relative.

We can decide to smile at a harried mom in the store, carry a package that’s clearly too heavy for someone struggling with it, shovel a sidewalk for an elderly neighbor, or even just check on a friend we haven’t talked with in a week or two.

“Doing Good” doesn’t have to mean only focusing on those BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) we heard about years ago; when many do even one small thing, the ripple effect can be huge!

And as Kevin Monroe wrote in his most excellent latest article: “How do you change the world? One ZIP code, one block at a time.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you make a difference in others’ lives?


Susan Rooks
Susan Rooks
With nearly 30 years’ experience as an international workshop leader, Susan Rooks is uniquely positioned to help people master the communication skills they need to succeed. In 1995, Susan formed Grammar Goddess Communication, creating and leading workshops in three main areas – American grammar, business writing, and interpersonal skills – to help business pros enhance their communication skills. She also leads one-hour LinkedIn workshops (Master the LinkedIn Profile Basics) via Zoom to help business pros anywhere maximize their LinkedIn experience, offering it to Chambers of Commerce and other civic organizations free of charge. As an editor, Susan has worked on business blogs, award-winning children’s books, best-selling business books, website content, and even corporate annual reports (with clients from half a dozen countries), ensuring that all material is professionally presented.

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  1. M. Teresa of Calcutta has shown us the way:
    We know well that what we do is just a drop in the ocean. But if this drop did not exist, the ocean would be missing.
    It is not what we do that matters, but how much love we put into what we do; you have to do small things with great love.

    • Love is certainly part of the equation, Aldo! And one drop from a million persons is a million drops! It all helps, doesn’t it? Thanks for your thoughts as always!

  2. Susan, thank you for sharing this article with us. It is such a good read with a nice dose of perspective. Often, it is the little things that make a difference. And the only cost is our time and kind words. You provide excellent examples of how to do good – and each one made me smile because they are doable. We may not always know the impact we have on someone’s life – even by saying hello – but I see the effect it has had on me. And that feeling is too good not to pay it forward.

    • And thanks for all that, Laura! I find, given my inner wiring, that I need specifics; broad brushstrokes don’t always help me see exactly what I can/could do. My goal was to remind us all that small actions carried out by many people make a wonderful impact, helping many others, and yes — they’re doable! 🙂

  3. Susan I love this. My Daddy called it a way of being. From Daddy, I learned a way of being that would stay with me for a lifetime. He taught me that we give quietly, help without expectation, and always have a cool bucket of water by the well for the dusty traveler. He would say that’s who we are and what we do. It is the way of being in our family.

    • And although my dad never said so, that’s how he lived. I found out at his funeral how many he had helped; they came to pay their respects. I was really surprised because I hadn’t known! It was wonderful finding out that what I believed about him was true.

      Your dad sounds like the same kind of wonderful man, and thanks for sharing, Larry!

  4. Oh my goodness, Susan, I love you for writing this piece! (Okay, I love you for other reasons, so I should clarify: I love this piece!) I am guilty of getting caught in the “what can I do about THAT big problem?” trap. And sometimes, we get stuck in a bad case of compassion fatigue – especially when there is so much bad news to process. This piece is such a great reminder that we ALL have the capacity to make positive ripples in the world and each ripple makes a difference to someone.

    One of my favorite quotes is by Robert Fulghum: “You may never have proof of your importance, but you are more important than you think. There are always those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who.”

    Thank you for pointing my head in the right direction today!

    • Well, Melissa, I kind of like you too (can you hear me laughing?) … As Larry Tyler just wrote, I learned from my dad, who gave quietly and constantly, something my mother hadn’t fully known about. Many came to his funeral and shocked her with that info. (Let’s just say my mother and my dad had different viewpoints on charity and helping others …) But I apparently took most of his lessons to heart, even if it took me a while.

      Love you too, woman!

  5. We can never do enough good. If we can help another person who is in need that is what we are supposed to do. Helping prepare and deliver meals, clothing, furniture, loans or just gifts of money means so much. In my faith, we are commanded to help others including those we see on the street asking for money as they may be homeless. Bring a needy person into your house for a hot meal is another act of kindness. Any act no matter how small can make a world of difference in their lives. There is no such thing as a handout. We are giving help to those who need it. This what we should and must do.

    • I agree that “Any act no matter how small can make a world of difference…,” Joel. And that’s my point, as you know: It doesn’t mean having millions of dollars or unlimited time. It means doing what may seem like small things to us that will be huge for someone else.

  6. Thank you for your reflections and ideas for doing kind deeds in our world, Susan. I appreciate all the suggestions you’ve offered, the topic itself, and the questions you’ve asked. Lately, I’ve come to realize that choosing to be a decent human being from a core place of compassion, love, and courage naturally allows the expression of kindness to flow out into our world. Opportunities to be kind naturally emerge when a person pays attention from this deeper place and commitment. The process of giving-organically-as situations arise can become a way a person chooses to live his or her life without attachment to “results.” To love and be kind to other human beings becomes a way to live, to be.

    • Laura, you are an amazing and shining example of the good we can do in this world! Kindness radiates from you, and we are all the better for it! Thank you so much for your kind words.

    • Thanks, Wendy! I have always found that real-life examples help; it’s just so much easier to either go with one that we see or one that suddenly pops up in our mind that may be different but doable!

      Yes, even though we might not see what we do as big, when we join forces with others, we do so much more, and yes — it does feel so good. 💕

  7. You’ve nailed it. Let me add one extra consideration to your ideas which are remarkable starting places that will create a ripple effect on your home, neighborhood, schools, churches, and communities. The truth is, how much good is enough? Don’t keep score. Don’t let the measurement of ‘good enough’ stop from doing good. I encourage every reader to pick one idea or two from your article and start the flow of good with one drop.

    • Yes, exactly, Jane! That’s what I found so kind of sad in Bruce’s original article … that faint thought that he was keeping score. We all do what we can; the trick is to figure out what that thing is or those things are!

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, and adding to it for the benefit of us all!