In terms of people-made-happy versus time-and-effort-expended, nothing I've ever done has been as effective as taking Cleo to the grocery store. Even on days like today, when she has a runny nose and is wearing a mishmashy sort of outfit, color-wise, she can be depended on to delight at least seven separate people in the course of a twenty-minute visit to the grocery store. She wiggles with delight as I put her in the cart, and proceeds to point and wave excitedly at all the people we pass. She loves identifying all the foods, even if she's more enthusiastic than accurate. Any round fruit or vegetable between three and six inches in diameter is an "App-puh!", any white, yellow, or orange hunks are "cheeeee!", and any boxes that show beige-ish, squarish foods are "kack-uhrs!" Another shopper who appears at the end of the aisle is hooted and waved at like a long-lost friend, and many people get called Da-da (a mark of seriously high esteem). If a fellow shopper has app-uhs, cheeeee, or kack-uhrs in her cart, Cleo lets her know that they have a lot in common, and shall we have a chat about it, perhaps over a little snack?
I've seen people go from surly and harried to completely charmed and at ease within seconds. Some people are immune to the charms of a loud, slightly grubby baby screeching at them (can you imagine?) but most people walk away in better moods than they approached in. I like to imagine those people leaving the store, being more patient drivers, nicer to their co-workers, more likely to give to charity... Well, maybe I'm reaching. But I do sometimes think of Cleo as the butterfly that starts a hurricane, only with goodwill. So I don't feel bad these days if I forget something at the store and have to go back the next day. Every little bit helps, and the extra gas is just the cost of doing business as a milkman of human kindness.