We often wonder if what we do during the course of the day actually makes a difference. I don't mean if it matters at all, but if it really changes anything, if it has an impact on people's lives. Now, if I were a doctor performing surgery, or a judge ruling on a serious matter, my actions could literally determine the difference between life or death for another person and forever affect the lives of his or her family and friends. But what if I don't do anything so exciting and "important"? Many of us can feel that the things we do in the course of a regular day are basically irrelevant; our actions don't have much of an impact on the world around us, and if we stopped doing them, someone else could easily take our place.

Yet one of the most famous teachings of the Baal Shem Tov is that a leaf does not fall to the ground that is not meant to, and that does not have a profound affect on the world around us. The Baal Shem Tov taught that we are brought into this world, each and every one of us, for a specific period of time and with a specific mission to accomplish; sometimes, we may live a full life of seventy or eighty years with the sole purpose of fulfilling one act of kindness to one other person.

A few days ago, as I read the headlines on CNN, I found a powerful example of the Baal Shem Tov's teachings. A news story noted a historical event—something that has never happened before—which would not have occurred unless something seemingly insignificant had happened fifty years ago.

Fifty years ago, a black woman by the name of Rosa Parks decided that she did not want to give up her seat in the front of the bus to a white man. While today this may seem petty and ridiculous, at the time, in segregated America, it was enough to warrant her arrest. And her arrest for such a refusal sparked the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.

Rosa Parks had no intentions of becoming a leader or a symbol or a historical figure. She simply didn’t feel that it was right that she be asked to give up her seat. All she basically did was stick to her beliefs and do what she felt was correct. But in doing so, she literally changed the world around her.

When Rosa Parks passed away on October 24, the President had the flags flown at half-staff. Last week, she became the first woman to ever lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

Was what she did so extraordinary that it deserved national honors? Could she possibly have envisioned her one little refusal making such a huge difference in the process of attaining equal rights for African-Americans? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that this woman showed the world that knowing who you are and what you need to do, and doing it— is how we change the world, whether we intend to or not.

The other day my four-year-old daughter came home from school and started running around the house helping in any way that she could. First she picked up her toys, then she helped her little brother, then she ate nicely, and so on. For a precocious child, all this was quite a departure from her usual behavior. I was a bit surprised by her sudden change in attitude, but happy nonetheless, so I didn't question it.

When I walked past her room later that night, I noticed that she was standing with her arms out as if she was a balance scale. And as she stood like this scale, she kept wavering back and forth. She was talking to herself, but loud enough that I could hear. She was mentioning all the good things she had done that day. When she finished her list, she tilted her little body to one side and screamed out, "The mitzvah side won! Moshiach, you need to come now!"

It turns out that in school that day, the children had learned that all we need to do to bring Moshiach is to add a few more mitzvahs, since the universal "scale" is so close to tipping. Furthermore, they learned that the prayers and deeds of children are far greater and more meaningful than those of adults since they are so pure and innocent. Therefore, every good deed a child does will make a tremendous difference.

When I walked past her bedroom that night and realized what she was doing and why, I started laughing and crying simultaneously. I laughed, because I had never seen anything so cute as her tilting her body and then screaming to G‑d that it was about time He bring Moshiach. But I cried, because I realized that she had a faith and belief that far exceeded my own. She really believed that her actions and her behavior can make a tremendous, world-shaking difference. And she is right.

Rosa Parks is not receiving honor from the entire world today simply because she didn't give up her seat. She is being honored because of the tremendous impact her choice to do what is right even when others thought she was wrong had, in the years and decades to come, on the whole of America and across the globe. Her choice that day may have been just one of thousands of leaves that fall from the tree; but Rosa Parks is proof that while our mission and purpose may sometimes be hidden, perhaps, even, never fully revealed, something as ordinary as a simple action—or inaction—has the power to change the world.