The Power of Small Good Deeds

Watercolor painting of white cranes flying across a rosy sky with mountains and trees.

The servant of a wealthy family in the Ming Dynasty saves his own life by performing a small good deed. (Image: Baoyan via Dreamstime)

“Do not neglect small acts of kindness, do not engage in small acts of evil.” This saying is easy to recite, but it is not always easy to follow. Yet, the smallest good deed might save your life.

For example, “do not neglect small acts of kindness” means to encourage people to do good deeds, even if they are small, casual, or unintentional acts, and not to ignore or even refuse to do them. According to the principle that good and evil will be rewarded, doing good deeds will definitely bring blessings; it’s just a matter of when.

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Below is a story about a servant who, through a small good deed of kindness, saved his own life.

In the Ming Dynasty, there was a wealthy family named Zhang who lived in a certain place. In front of their estate was a small pit, more than two feet wide, that made it inconvenient for people to pass by. One of their servants found an old wooden board in their warehouse and laid it across the pit to make it convenient for everyone to pass. The servant didn’t pay much attention to this as it was a small act of kindness.

Watercolor painting of a Chinese village.
There was a small pit in front of their estate that made it inconvenient for people to pass by. (Image: Baoyan via Dreamstime)

One day, he was sent by his master to deliver gifts to Hengshan and when he reached a bridge called Tianjin Bridge, he was stopped by a scholar named Lu.

Lu told him: “Last night it was hot. I went to the bridge to take a walk and cool down, and I heard two voices talking below the bridge. One of them said: ‘Tomorrow, Zhang of Shui Nan will send someone from his household to deliver gifts to Hengshan, and when that man passes by here, he will surely bathe to cool down and as a result drown and die. Then there will be someone else to take my place, and I will be able to be reincarnated.’ I think this may be a water ghost who hasn’t reached his death, waiting for a replacement.”

The servant was advised never to bathe in the river. The scholar let him leave after the young servant promised not to do it.

Zhang’s servant was saved by his good deed

That night, Scholar Lu went to the bridge again to listen. He heard a voice under the bridge saying: “I’ve waited for three years. Finally, there’s a replacement, but he was saved by Scholar Lu. How unlucky!” Then another voice said: “This servant of Zhang’s was not supposed to die. He built a Seven Stars Bridge somewhere, and the merit of his good deed was enough to offset this disaster.” With that, the bridge below became quiet.

The life of the servant was spared because of his good deed.
Voices from under the bridge were discussing why the servant’s life had been spared because of his good deed. (Image: Mariia Alieksieieva via Dreamstime)

The next day as the servant was going back home, he once again met Lu who stopped him and asked: “Have you ever built a Seven Stars Bridge somewhere?” The servant said: “No, there’s no such thing.”

Scholar Lu did not believe it and repeatedly asked him to think again. The servant thought for a while and then said: “Maybe it’s the small dirt pit in front of my master’s estate, more than two feet wide, that makes it difficult for people to pass by. I found an old wooden board in the warehouse and laid it across the pit, but I don’t know why it’s called Seven Stars Bridge.”

Later, when the servant went back and checked the wooden board, he found that it had seven holes eaten in it by worms, and that confirmed that the Seven Stars Bridge referred to this old wooden board.

The small act that the servant did may seem insignificant and not earth-shattering, but it saved his life.

When people do good deeds, they should not be motivated by fame or gain, but rather by their innermost hearts, their innate kindness, not seeking to show off to others, or seeking recognition. This is called “accumulating hidden virtue.” Regardless of how small the good deed is, it will bring great rewards. Similarly, when people do bad deeds, even the smallest bad deeds, whether they are known by others or not, they cannot escape being seen by Heaven, and as the power of the deeds accumulates, retribution will come. At that time, regrets will be useless.

Translated by Eva

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