by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

For many, the holiday season inspires hope and reassures faith in miracles. But belief in miracles is not limited to a particular time of year. A recent 2007 Harris poll found that 82 percent of Americans believe in God and 79 percent believe in miracles, even though only 25 percent said they attend religious services once a week or more often. It seems that trust that the impossible is possible and faith in divine help are not confined to churchgoers.

Belief in miracles exists in all cultures and almost all religions. Of course, people in different faith traditions have substantially varied definitions of a “miracle,” and even within a specific religion, the term can have different meanings. But I love knowing that many people have an unbounded and hope-filled expectation for a future of unlimited possibilities. At least, that’s part of what believing in miracles means to me.

The word “miracle” is derived from the old Latin word miraculum, meaning “something wonderful.” And in the New Testament of the Bible, “marvel” is the simple meaning of the Greek word for miracle. So it’s no surprise that words such as “signs,” “wonders,” “marvels” and “miracles” are often used interchangeably. Indeed, in the biblical sense, miracles are signs and wonders — the extraordinary events that inspire awe and open the world of the divine.

Proponents of miracles generally agree that miracles actually restore the natural and normal order of things in accord with the divine. Some say it’s the habits of our skeptical human mind that prevent us from believing in the extraordinary and that cause us to view miracles as the mysterious, unusual and unlikely. In the same light, some don’t expect miracles from ordinary folks, especially from themselves.

Who’s one of the most renowned miracle workers? Many might say Jesus, although he wasn’t seeking such fame. Jesus lived a life of love — healing and helping others — and taught us we could and should do the same. He said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also” (John 14:12). He assured, ” … for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). And he also encouraged, ” … love one another” (John 13:34) Perhaps the greatest miracle humanity could ever experience is everyone loving each other in the way Jesus practiced and advocated.

Mark Twain dubbed Anne Sullivan a miracle worker for her successful heroic efforts in the 1880s teaching Helen Keller — who could not see, hear or speak — the existence and purpose of language.

Maybe you’re thinking, “People like Jesus or even Annie Sullivan were extraordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things. Don’t look at me. I’m no miracle worker!” But what if I said you could be? What if anyone could be a miracle worker? What if workers of miracles are not a chosen few?

What if your smile, your embrace, your kind words and encouragement, your thoughtful and helpful actions, your prayers, may be just the healing touch that brightens someone’s day, lifts someone’s spirits or even dramatically changes someone’s life? I suspect that many times in our lives we have not realized the difference we make or could make in the life of another.

I still remember the teacher who saw my potential, the friend who was always there when I needed her, and the stranger who listened when I was alone or yet another stranger who stopped to help when I was in great need.

And I will always be grateful to my mother for her unconditional love and unending faith in my abilities, my brothers for making me feel like the most special and important person in the world, my husband for making me feel beautiful, loved and wanted, and my daughter for caring, listening and sharing her love, inspirations and honesty. My list continues with more family, friends and strangers who have at one time or another impacted my life in some miraculous, wonderful, transforming way.

So I say, don’t belittle the effect you have on those around you. It’s not some small miracle that our paths cross. I have no doubt that you will be someone’s miracle worker today or tomorrow or in the years to come. Maybe you’ll be mine!