Every now and again we get reminders that our words and actions matter more than we might realize. I had a couple of reminders last week.

A friend dropped off a gift box for my birthday filled with her delicious habanero jelly and her homemade salsa. Along with that was a nice card in which she complimented me on my writing. She said she reads my columns and enjoys them very much. Nothing makes a columnist feel quite as good as positive feedback and knowing someone reads their stuff.

Later, as I was going through a long list of birthday wishes from friends, I came across a text I received from someone I used to work with who moved out of state earlier this year. In his text, he thanked me for an invitation I made to him to join Aggie and me for Thanksgiving a year ago. He wasn’t from Iowa and I didn’t know if he’d be able to make it back to his family to celebrate Thanksgiving.

He wasn’t able to join us that day and was able to make it back to his home to celebrate the holiday with his family in Illinois. But he was touched by my invitation to join us. While I had forgotten about the invitation, he remembered it. It also left him with a positive impression of Iowans. He said he appreciated the invitation and that “Iowans are good people.”

Christmas is a week away and I’m sure many of us are finishing up holiday shopping or buying those items for our Christmas meals. It also seems to be the time for extending kindness and generosity to those around us. It’s the time of year when many people make use of their time, talent or treasure to help other people or organizations.

If I’m reminded of anything from my friend remembering an invitation to join us for a meal, it’s that we don’t have to do monumental things to make an impression on someone else. Setting one more place around the dinner table takes a couple of minutes. And there’s always enough turkey and trimmings for one more.

As 2019 wraps up, how about we take that generous spirit that accompanies Christmas and carry it into the new year? Can you find someone in your community that would benefit from an act of kindness? It doesn’t have to be big. Often, I think people appreciate knowing someone knows they are out there.

It also doesn’t have to cost a great sum of money. Maybe it’s removing snow from someone’s driveway. Or it can be an offer to drive someone to the grocery store, the doctor’s office, the pharmacy or to church. Perhaps it’s asking someone to go along to a high school sporting event. And just maybe, it’s extending an invitation to have them join your family for a meal.

When Aggie and I gather with our family for Christmas, we’ll enjoy some habanero jelly from my friend and remember that there is always room for more people around our table. And not just at holiday time, but all year round.

I think that’s a sentiment that is easily found in the Midwest, in small communities and in Iowa. After all, my friend said it best:

“Iowans are good people.”