One Little Act, One Huge Impact

3 min. read

It’s Friday night. I’m home from a three-day business trip to Boston. 

I’m tired, hungry, and looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.

7:57p.m. in my home office.
My phone lights up…

Unknown Number: Alan, I’m on a flight from Wisconsin to Kansas City. I saw this portfolio, and honestly, you might miss this. I’m in sales. If you tell me you need it, I’m going to help you. Pay it forward.

Me: ??

I think to myself – STALKER!

Unknown Number: “Are you Alan Patterson?”

I’m thinking time for a new cellphone number.

Me: Who is this?

Time to change the locks on my house.

Unknown Number: Can I call you. I’m on a plane. I’m a stranger to you.

Do I call the local police or FBI?!?

By now I’ve convinced myself that my phone was hacked – and worse yet, someone has access to my Amazon Prime, one-click account.

Then I look in my briefcase.

My diary – the aforementioned “portfolio” I use for meeting notes and ideas – is missing. Not the end of the world, but pretty darn close.

Not a stalker, but a good Samaritan. Phew!

This unknown number’s name is Josh.

And when I called him, he’s in his car driving home from the airport. 

Seems Josh sat in my seat on the next flight, and as he’s on the approach to KC, checks the seatback pocket (which obviously I didn’t do). There, he discovers the diary.

My diary.

At 35,000 feet and declining, Josh finds my name and telephone number on the front page.

And at 7:56 p.m., give or take, he texts me that “I honestly might miss this.”

Josh. Might I say that’s an understatement.

I can’t imagine looking through my briefcase on Sunday only to discover my security blanket –– my notes, outlines, rambling and obsessive to-do lists, blog ideas (obviously not this one), some insane ideas and not-so-bad ideas, phone numbers, doodles, and sheer nonsense – missing!!


Oh, I’ve left a computer on a rental car bus in San Francisco (got that one back).

Left a cellphone in a cab in Boston – “it will ride forever on the streets of Boston.”

Oh, and then there were the notes for an upcoming conference with a major sports league … found by the cleaning crew.

 But this one, thanks to Josh, has a happy ending.

“No big deal” he tells me.

Admittedly in the scheme of life, this is “just” a notebook. Not a big deal.

It’s Josh that’s the big deal.

It’s his thoughtfulness and his actions that are reaffirming.

It is a big deal that “a stranger to me” is no stranger at all.

I was reunited with my alter ego the following Tuesday when FedEx dropped it on my doorstep.

Together again.

Josh, you said pay it forward. I accept.

I hope that others reading this are inspired by what you did – what you do, Josh.

Multiple this one act by 10, a 100, 1000. 

Altogether, greatness is inevitable.

They are not that hard to do. That’s why they’re called “little acts.”

Little acts with exponential impact.

What if we all were little acts that can have a big impact?

Instead of proving to the world how smart we are … how much we’ve achieved … how much we have.

Are we really all strangers? Or just pretending to be?

How about making a difference?

Josh did.