Michelle Eyre, Chief prayer officer, Discovering Prayer

ONE small act of kindness may be what it takes to stop us feeling overwhelmed by the festive season.

A recent survey of 2,000 people by the National Accident Helpline revealed almost 20 per cent found the Christmas season “completely overwhelming”. I can relate to that.

But this year something happened that made me think.

In Botley, a four-year-old girl crossing at West Way with her family was hit by a car that drove through a red light.

Quite by chance, if you believe in chance, a good friend, Dr Sarfatti (who works in children’s A&E) was walking past. He provided immediate healthcare and the child is recovering well.

But not only did Dr Sarfatti provide help at the time, he and his wife have set up a campaign to make the crossing safer in future.

The Sarfatti family are busy people, a family with four children and full-time jobs, but they still decided to make time to set up the campaign.

They have become catalysts for good in in community – a small act of setting up a petition can make a difference.

So often I find myself thinking that it is futile to try to do anything to make a change. How can changing one bit of road layout really make a difference, when the traffic in central and surrounding Oxford is so often ground to a halt?

Transport planners do their best, but let’s face it, Botley was not designed for the numbers that now live here and pass through here.

So is it worth even trying to make a difference?

But there is evidence that small changes can and do make a difference across society.

Think about Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education.

She said: “One child, one teacher, one pen, one book, can make a difference.”

In sport, too, we know that using marginal gains generates success for the British Cycling team and more widely in education and industry.

Matthew Syed wrote about marginal gains in his book Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success.

In it he gives examples of that by breaking down activities or failures into component parts, small changes can be made which over time bring about greater success.

At Christmas time, we remember the birth of Jesus, whom we believe was a real person.

The birth of Jesus was just the birth of one child, from a poor and powerless family. It was pretty amazing that anyone could have had hope in him.

Yet that birth caused a revolution in thinking. The audacious idea of God being born and dwelling among us and that Jesus came for the poor, the people who felt overwhelmed and those who established religion sometimes rejected.

He didn’t come to condemn, but to live with us. It is the idea of grace – of being loved by God no matter what we do or have done.

So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, perhaps try doing something small for the good of all, you may never know of the impact you will have in the long run.

Here is a prayer from an 16th Century Christian Teresa of Ávila that you might find as powerful as I do: “May today there be peace within.

“May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

“May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

“May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

“May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.

“Let this presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

“It is there for each and every one of you.”