So it’s been a few months since the Games in London ended. And while I loved watching many of the competitions, now that it’s over, I couldn’t tell you much about the specifics, with the exception of a few names and events. Granted, if I competed in any of the sports, I would know all the stats; but since I do not, the scores, names, and even descriptions of the competitors do not remain with me.

But their actions do.

And I don’t mean their skills or how they competed, but how they acted.

The most moving of which took place during track and field, ironic being that I really have little if any interest in running. But it happened to be on, and so I watched. In this particular race there was a competitor from South Africa, Oscar Pistorius. This man had amputated legs, from the knee down, which were replaced with carbon-fiber legs.

I know their names only because I searched them online. But I will remember that lesson for a lifetimeI listened as the commentators explained how he had advocated and pleaded and done everything in his power to be allowed to compete with the “able-bodied” runners, as they were called. And so he did.

And he came in last.

But with the biggest smile on his face.

He had accomplished what he set out to do, and albeit a few seconds later than the others, he ran an incredible race.

And then the winner of this race, Kirani James from Grenada, approached him, shook his hand, hugged him and then removed his name tag, exchanging it with the South African runner. The winner then held up this other runner’s name for recognition and applause, to which many responded with a standing ovation.

I know their names only because I searched them online. But I will remember that lesson for a lifetime.

As we begin this new year, it is so easy to wonder if during the coming year we will be good enough, successful enough, rich enough, happy enough, etc. Hopefully, we will be all of these things. Hopefully, we will win the gold in the events of our lives. But life is so much more than that. It is not that one race, but rather who we are and what we do. Ha-maaseh hu ha-ikar, it is the action that counts, we are taught in the Ethics of Our Fathers.

Often when I teach writing workshops, I have the group write about their favorite childhood memory. Time and time again, one’s most precious memory is not of a big trip or fancy gift, but a seemingly small action that represented love and care. Looking back, I recall being about five years old and opening my lunch one day in camp to find a bologna-and-ketchup sandwich, along with my favorite dessert. It was so exciting since it wasn’t something I had had before, but something I so badly wanted. I just remember the feeling of everything going my way, and feeling so cared for, when I opened my brown bag that sunny summer day.

We often make the biggest impact when we aren’t trying. Sometimes we don’t even notice or ever know that we did. But our greatest moments are when we let our inner goodness shine through, and allow our love for another to lead the way. It may be that time we stopped what we were doing to hold the arm of a blind person crossing the street, or picked up the packages someone dropped. These random acts of kindness are exactly what the world stands on, and what is needed to transform our reality.

Our lives are defined not by a moment, but by the compilation of moments filled with goodness and kindnessBut perhaps the greatest thing about a good deed, which is often referred to as a mitzvah, is that by definition an act of kindness involves connecting to another. Also, this is one reason why according to chassidic philosophy the term “mitzvah” is related to tzavsa ve-chibur, the idea of cleaving and attaching together. When helping someone we know—or someone we may not know—takes priority over that moment of fame or reward, that is when we make a permanent mark on humanity.

Our lives are defined not by a moment, but by the compilation of moments filled with goodness and kindness. And for me, when I reflect back on the Summer Games of 2012, I will always remember Kirani, who won that race and continued on to win the gold the next night, the first medal his small country ever won. There is no doubt that the first-place runner is one of the, if not the, fastest runner in the world. But even when his record is broken and he is no longer competing, he will remain an inspiration. For more important than his speed is his empathy, his compassion and his humility. Qualities that do not earn medals, but that show the world that his gold is not only around his neck, but in his heart as well.