Becky Keife and Making The Simple Difference (Part 1)

John FarrellBy John Farrell11 Minutes

John Farrell: Could you please tell me a little bit about your book, The Simple Difference?

Becky Keife: The Simple Difference, like the subtitle says, is all about how every small kindness makes a big impact, and that really sums it up. The fact that right where we are, with exactly what we have, in simple yet intentional ways, we have the ability to be difference makers because of the kindness we’ve received from God and how He invites us to partner with Him.

JF: What was your inspiration for writing The Simple Difference?

Becky: Well, a couple of things. One, this has been a struggle of mine for years, and I feel like especially now I need this message because I can easily feel overwhelmed and weighed down by the world’s problems. I can feel stretched thin by my own ordinary life and both of those things combined. I can feel like I want to be an agent of change for the kingdom of God. I want to make a difference, but what can one person really do?

Sometimes it can just feel honestly, discouraging, and disheartening when we look at the needs before us and the weighty problems we’re all faced with. That was part of it. Around the same time, when I was really feeling this way, especially many years ago when I was a mom with three little kids at home and feeling like how in that season of my life I especially was like, “I’m not going to be an overseas missionary. I don’t have hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. How can I, in my ordinary life, make a difference?”

Around the same time, I remember it was an ordinary day one summer and I was taking my three boys to the library. I got the times messed up and we accidentally got there eight minutes early, which doesn’t seem like a big deal. But if you have spirited children like I did, those eight minutes felt like eight years. The minutes dragged on.

There was just the drinking fountain, the bathroom, and a billion questions, and my internal anxiety was rising. My kids weren’t being bad, they were just being highly curious, active little boys. More people started coming into this waiting area, and I could just tell all eyes were on us. Like, “People are watching. People are judging.” I do not enjoy parenting in public. We just felt like a tornado, and we were in people’s business.

Finally, the bell tower rings 10 a.m. and the doors open. I remind my kids again, “Inside voices. Please, no running.” This woman catches my eye. I could tell that she had specifically been watching us, and she says, “It’s going to be a long summer.” I was like, “Yeah, it is.” But then she said something that I’ll never forget. She said, “But you’re doing a really great job and I’m glad that you’re here.” I was bracing myself for a stranger’s criticism.

I think we are all very aware that people feel very open and free these days to just express their critical opinions, and that’s what I was expecting. But instead, I was met with a stranger’s words of kindness and encouragement. With that simple comment, I stood up a little bit straighter. It changed my attitude about how I felt about my mothering. How I felt about my kids. For that library outing and the rest of the day.

She probably never thought of it again. That woman didn’t go out of her way necessarily. She was just waiting. She just was there. It was part of her day, but the fact that she chose to see me and speak truth and life into someone she didn’t know, I was like, “That’s the kind of person I want to be.” I think about how her stone of kind words was like a ripple in my life and the fact that it then made me mindful of people around me in my everyday life who I could encourage, who I could speak and do kindness to. I was like, “Wow, that was so simple and what a difference it made in my life.” That really was the beginning of The Simple Difference.

JF: It just goes to show how powerful something as simple as a kind word or a kind sentiment can change a person’s day for the good.

Becky: Absolutely. And the thing is, we never know how that kind word is going to land. I very well could have been like, “Oh, thanks.” She had no idea that I was struggling under the weight of inadequacy in motherhood in that season of my life. That was more than just a kind word. That was really God’s kindness to me. He was saying, “I see you.”

I think that’s the opportunity we have. We won’t always know the impact that our small kindnesses will make, but we can be faithful and obedient and live surrendered to the Holy Spirit and trust the outcome to Him.

JF: It’s what you needed at that time, and God knew that.

Becky: Exactly. Yes.

JF: What is the overall message you hope people take from your book?

Becky: I hope at the end of the book, people know that right where they are, with exactly what they have, they have the ability to make a difference every single day.

There’s a “Simple Difference” prayer that I share and that I pray in my own life every day, and it says very simply, “Lord, as I go on my way, have Your way with me.” It’s a posture of saying, “In everyday ways – when I’m at Starbucks, when I’m dropping my kids off to soccer practice, when I’m interacting with colleagues, when I’m dealing with a difficult neighbor … fill in the blank” – whatever your ordinary days look like, you have the opportunity to experience and express the kindness of God.

I believe if we all did that right in our own little spheres that would make an incredible impact. We could actually make waves of change in our communities, in our neighborhoods, even in the whole world.

We see so much division and hopelessness and discouragement and relational tension. I believe kindness is a way to combat that in a way that is accessible and available to all of us.

JF: Why is that so important with everything that’s going on in today’s world?

Becky: Every time I tell someone about The Simple Difference they’re like, “What is that? I don’t know what that is.” And I say, “Well, really it’s about kindness.” And the overwhelming response I get is, “Oh my goodness, the world needs more kindness.”

I think now more than ever we have lost some of the basic dignity, respect, humanity. Especially behind our digital screens, it’s become culturally acceptable to berate, tear down, criticize, and judge others. I think at the heart of that is that we, as believers, have stopped seeing people as image bearers of God. We have started seeing, even maybe people who sit across from you in a church pew, as ‘other.’

Fill in the blank of whatever the hot button issue for you is, and if they don’t fall on the same line, then we ‘other’ people instead of saying, “Wow, that is a woman who is loved by God. That is a man who is a son of God.”

I think if we can go back to the very basics of seeing one another the way that God sees us – I say, “We can’t always be problem solvers, but we can be people see-ers” – I think when we first start with seeing the humanity and the fact that each person is made in God’s image, then that automatically primes our hearts to be ready to speak that kind of word, to be ready to extend ourselves in an act of compassion or generosity. But we have to start with seeing each other, and I think the world really needs that right now.

Order your copy of The Simple Difference: How Every Small Kindness Makes a Big Impact by Becky Keife