What I learned cleaning windows in Washington D.C.

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“You guys are the face of Chick-fil-A.”

That’s what Dan Cathy told us on the first day I arrived to work. We were just a bunch of 16,17, and 18 year old kids starting our first jobs trying to earn money for college. We hadn’t signed up to be the face of a multi-billion dollar company.

We were just expecting to do our job, complete our little tasks, clock in and clock out. Then he explained how those of us who were breading chicken, refreshing beverages, and cleaning windows would be the ones guests would think of when they thought about Chick-fil-A. It wasn’t the big decisions made at the headquarters in Atlanta that made the most impact on people and propelled the growth at Chick-fil-A. It was the little things that were done day in and day out that made the difference.

Heading to Washington DC last November for the IMPACTJUNKIE trip, I didn’t fully know what to expect. I knew we were  supposed to be going to help at the Dream Center but what we would be doing there I didn’t know. The DC DreamCenter is a center for the DC community that focuses on meeting the needs of the community from tutoring, to personal assistance, personal development, legal assistance, mentoring, after-school activities, and feeding the community. Its an incredible place with incredible people, creating an incredible impact.  So what was the big task that I was to do? What would be the way I would leave my mark? “We need someone to clean windows” they said.

For the next couple of hours I cleaned windows at the Dream Center’s Whitehouse helping them prepare for the holiday season. Others from the group scrubbed floors, fixed toilets, cleaned out rooms, and decorated for Christmas. We got to visit with the staff and find out how they make everything happen at the Dream Center. It might not have been easy to see the significance of what we were doing, but while cleaning the windows I was reminded of what Dan Cathy told us that day at Chick-fil-A. It’s not only the big things we should be worried with. It’s doing the little things.

We are quick to write off the little things as being insignificant in the impact we make in life, but doing the little things is what creates the impact. It’s not one grand event we build to that changes a life, but it’s the daily choices and decisions that make the difference. Yes, cleaning windows isn’t feeding those in need or mentoring in an after-school program. But it’s setting the environment for those things to take place. You can’t show up one day at the appointed time and have everything magically come together. You can’t just wish for change to happen or for your dreams to come true. It might not seem like you’re making huge strides or having a great impact. It might just feel like, well… cleaning windows.

It’s easy to be discouraged when you see all the problems in the world and that feeling of hopelessness can be overwhelming. But that isn’t the time to let hopelessness blur your vision of hope. It isn’t time to cripple your response when you see someone in need or a situation where you can step in. Embrace the moment and be the reflection of hope that the world needs.

My pastor has been challenging our church this year to do what God puts in front of us. Reach for those you work with, help your neighbor, give of your talents to fix problems in your community, or just encourage that kid down the street no one believes in. Every little thing you do helps remove the smudge blocking the vision of one’s dream. Every seemingly insignificant word of encouragement gives clear view of one’s potential. Every small act of kindness in a dark world of despair allows the ray of hope to shine bright in the most despondent of circumstances.

The choice is yours. Give into the lies of your insignificance or go clean windows.

This post was written by Tennessee #ImpactJunkie Jonathan Ellingsworth

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