One Small Act
Want some extra credit?

Class is over. I thank my teacher and click the “x” in the left-hand corner of the screen to exit the classroom. I close the lid of my laptop and remove the bright blue earbuds from my ears. I look around my desk. Endless pages of graph paper with physics formulas and concepts scrawled all over them are scattered across its surface. My brain is too tired to make any attempt at physics homework at this point. I groan when I think of everything I need to accomplish in the four short hours before I go to work.

As I go about the rest of my day before work, my thoughts are dominated by how quiet the room is compared to how it would be if I were going to a regular school. I have to go out of my way to talk to anyone.

A few hours and homework assignments later, my mom rushes me to work. I tell her how unhappy I am and that I wish I could be around more people and do more fun things. She listens and offers some advice. However, only so much dialogue can be packed into a five-minute car ride.

Upon arriving, I find the employees at Chronic Tacos in a stressed frenzy. Thoughts of the homework I still need to do pass through my mind while I wash my hands and glove up. My manager frantically explains the restaurant’s current situation. We are behind in orders, two Uber drivers are waiting for pick-up, the line is to the door, we are out of Pico de Gallo, the customer just behind us is threatening us with a negative review, and the nachos are about to burn. Remarkably, we manage to fill all the orders and send the customers off filled and satisfied. Before I know it, I see my mom’s headlights gleaming through the store window. I am glad to go home.

However, my struggles do not end here. I still need to finish some homework assignments. Tomorrow, I will do it all over again.

This was my routine for weeks during my senior year in high school.

The next morning, I logged into class, fully expecting to follow the same routine. With a smile, my finance teacher excitedly told us about an extra credit opportunity. He explained a scientific study where depressed individuals were instructed to write down either three “good things” that happened during the day or to write an encouraging note to someone else. If we applied this same challenge for the next fifteen days, he would give us a few extra points.

This was the change I needed. After just one day of following this assignment, my attitude toward everything changed drastically. It was as if a dark storm cloud had been lifted from above my head. I was constantly finding the positives in everything! When my computer did not work, and I needed notes from the class, my classmates’ responses were a positive thing to write down. When I got along with my sister while we practiced volleyball together, that was a positive thing to write down. When I saw my mom getting down, I would write her a note to encourage her, and our relationship grew. Every time a seemingly impossible problem was solved, I had another positive thing to write down. I found that my life truly is wonderful—I just was not paying attention and contemplating the lovely things as Philippians 4:8 admonishes.

So I hope you will consider trying this exercise for yourself. Write down three positive things that happened during your day, compliment your friend for something, or write an encouraging note to someone. We can change more lives than we know by doing this one small act.