I was in my ninth month of pregnancy, it was early in the morning, and I was taking a walk. In rain or sunshine, pregnant or not, you’ll always find me walking or running in the early morning hours when the sun is just beginning to rise and you can still hear the chirping of the birds.

I walked past a bus stop just as a bus pulled over and opened its doors for me. I assumed he opened the doors because he thought I wanted a ride. “No, thank you,” I shouted to the driver, “I’m just walking. I don’t want to get on the bus.”

“I know,” he replied, “I see you every morning. Kol hakavod [a Hebrew expression of congratulations], I just wanted to let you know that you’ve inspired me. Because of you, I started walking too, and I’ve already lost six kilo [thirteen pounds].” Now it was my turn to tell him “kol hakavod.” I wished him a good day and we both went on our way. Maybe this man would have lost the weight even if he hadn’t seen me walking. But I was the catalyst which set it into motion. Unbeknownst to me, my simple act of exercise made a difference in another person’s life.

Can a small act, a smile, a kind word really make a difference?The very existence of the Jewish nation is in jeopardy. There is one woman, Esther, who is in a position to save the nation. Her cousin, Mordechai, tells her to take action, and Esther replies that she can’t, because if she does, her life will be in danger. He responds to her, “Do not imagine in your soul that you will be able to escape in the king’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, while you and your father's house will perish . . .” (Esther 4:12–14). Mordechai is telling Esther that if she doesn’t do her part to save the Jewish people, someone else will.

We’ve heard the expression, “It’s all in G‑d’s hands.” But if everything is all in G‑d’s hands, does it really make a difference what I do? Can a small act, a smile, a kind word, or standing up for your convictions, really make a difference?

Everything is in G‑d’s hands, but He gives us a choice. He allows us to choose whether we will be the ones through which He reveals Himself. Esther could have very easily kept quiet and ignored Mordechai’s orders. No one would have known, and even if they did, who would have blamed her? After all, she would put her life in danger by approaching the king without first being summoned. Esther had heard Mordechai’s words. Salvation would come, if not by her, by another. She could have easily replayed this message in her heart and not worried about her brethren. She was an orphan without any siblings. She could have just saved herself and her cousin, and let someone else worry about the rest of the Jews. But she decided to take the risk, and was thus the one to save her nation, including people whom she didn’t even know.

Moses was also put in a position to act. G‑d came to him and told him that he would be the one to lead His people out of Egypt. Moses, in his humility, questioned G‑d. “Who am I to lead Israel? Choose another person who is better; it should be my brother Aaron.” But G‑d insisted. He didn’t want someone else, He wanted Moses. And Moses thus became the greatest leader of the Jewish people. However, because he doubted his own capability and was hesitant to perform the job, the commentators explain that the priesthood was taken away from Moses’ descendants, and given to Aaron’s.

Esther’s example to act serves as an inspiration for usImagine the influence of all the little acts we do that we don’t even realize. How much more so is the influence of the acts that we do perform with the consciousness to elevate ourselves and help those around us, especially the ones for which we don’t receive any credit. On Purim, we read the Book of Esther. In the entire book of Esther, the name of G‑d is never explicitly mentioned. Unlike Passover, where we see G‑d’s involvement and open miracles, on Purim His involvement and miracles are merely alluded to, His greatness is hidden. He receives no glory or praise for the kindness that He does.

So too did Esther act behind the scenes. No one, except for Mordechai, knew of her incredible self–sacrifice, and yet she did it. While Purim celebrates the triumph of the Jewish nation over an enemy, we also celebrate the act of a single Jewish woman who cared enough to risk her own life for her people. Before Esther courageously confronted King Ahasuerus and Haman, she asked the nation to join her in a three-day fast. The entire people fasted with her in unity. Their fast has become our fast. Her example to act serves as an inspiration for us to act. One can never get discouraged and refrain from action due to the fear that it “wouldn’t matter anyways.” We have to always remember the lesson Esther taught us. It’s not “Can I make a difference?” but rather, “Will I be the one to make a difference?”