That's a great question. And a hard one to answer. I'm old enough now to have collected a lot of favorite stories. I don't know how to choose among them, really. So, I picked _a_ favorite.
One morning, a young man was walking along the ocean shore. As far as he could see, starfish dotted the sand, washed up by a big storm the night before. He walked around a curve in the beach.
Up ahead, he saw an old man. The old man was standing at the edge of the water, gingerly bending down, lifting a starfish, and tossing it into the waves. As the young man approached, the old man slowly repeated the motion. Bend, lift, toss. Bend, lift, toss.
The young man shook his head and smirked. "Old man," he mocked, "what on earth are you doing? There are thousands of starfish washed up on this shore. What you're doing...it just doesn't matter."
The old man bent, lifted a starfish, and tossed it into the waves. He turned to the young man, pointed out into the surf, and said "It matters to that one."
Little kindnesses. A few words. One small step further. Doing a little more each day than you thought you could. These things can make a world of difference to those you affect with your little actions.
My father believes that one way we define ourselves is through our stories. He believes that, in order to change our ways as a people, we need to change the stories we tell. I think he's right.
I'm grateful to my daughter for making me consider the answer to her question. I'm glad to have had the chance to share that story with her, and my family.
P.S. I don't know where that story comes from. I heard it years ago, and I'm sure it's changed in the retelling. If you know it's origins, I'd like to know them too.