This reading group guide for One Simple Act includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Debbie Macomber. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction “I have had some encounters with generosity—as the recipient, the giver, the witness—that have had a profoundly life-changing effect on me. I’ve just got to share the news.”
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Can simple acts of generosity have a big impact? Absolutely, says bestselling novelist Debbie Macomber. In One Simple Act
, she presents true-life tales that illustrate how the gifts of time, encouragement, hope, laughter, prayer, hospitality, service, and even forgiveness, often have extraordinary results—for the giver as well as the recipient.
Just as a poor young boy gave his precious few fishes and loaves of bread to Jesus in Galilee and saw them multiplied to feed five thousand, so too can we use faith to guide us in acting generously. At the supermarket or the airport, making a simple phone call or offering a few words of encouragement, Macomber shows that it isn’t hard to make kindness part of our daily lives. Through a blend of inspiring stories and motivating messages, she proves that we all have the power to make the world a better place…one simple act at a time. Discussion Questions
1. “My goal in writing this is to surprise you with the multiple benefits that come from small and large acts of generosity” (page 8), says Debbie Macomber. What did you find to be the most surprising thing in One Simple Act
? Using examples from the book or from your own life, discuss how even small acts of generosity can make a difference.
2. Debbie suggests keeping journals on prayer, gratitude, and encouragement, or recording everything in one journal. Were you compelled to begin keeping a journal after reading One Simple Act
? Why or why not? If you already keep one or more journals, how does this practice enhance your life?
3. Throughout the book Debbie shares anecdotes from her own life and from the lives of her family members, friends, fellow church-goers, and others, including a general who writes a letter to a young boy and a woman who buys a pair of gloves for a homeless man. Which story resonated with you the most, and why?
4. In what ways have you been inspired by One Simple Act
? Share what you’ve already done and what you intend to do over the next year to “get in the habit of doing good deeds” (page 52). Debbie candidly admits that hectic schedules sometimes make it challenging to do this. Strategize ways you can accomplish your generosity goals.
5. Numerous scientific studies are cited in the book about the health benefits of being generous. In what ways are givers impacted by their actions, both physically and emotionally? How have you been impacted personally?
6. Discuss the list of “failures” on page 40. Why do you suppose Debbie decided to include this in the book? How do you view your own setbacks, knowing that people like Albert Einstein and Michael Jordan encountered stumbling blocks on their roads to success?
7. “There’s nothing simple or easy about forgiveness—it may be one of the costliest gifts we’re called upon to give” (page 57), says Debbie. Why is it important to forgive and to let go of bitterness and anger? Share whether or not there is someone in your own life you need to work on forgiving.
8. Discuss the two facets of prayer outlined on page 182: “praying that God works generosity and kindness into our lives” and “generously offering prayer on behalf of others, called intercession.” Why is prayer an important part of acting generously?
9. Look over the “Ten Rules for Happier Living” on page 214. Which of these things do you regularly practice? Which ones would you like to practice more?
10. Debbie has used her interest in knitting to benefit others by volunteering at a senior center and contributing to Warm Up America!, an organization that donates hand-made afghans to women’s shelters. What hobbies or skills can you use to help people, both as individuals and as a group? Enhance Your Book Club
In the weeks leading up to your group’s discussion of One Simple Act
, have members keep track of their acts of generosity and share them with the group.
Along with One Simple Act
, read a book that made a difference to Debbie Macomber—Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place
Emulating a Macomber family holiday tradition, gather your book club members together to make homemade gifts for friends, teachers, mailmen, pastors, and others. For ideas, Debbie recommends the Gifts in a Bag
series of books (www.cqproducts.com).
One pages 136-137 of One Simple Act
, Debbie shares some of her favorite passages of hope and consolation from the Bible. Take turns reading aloud your favorite Bible verses and discuss how they’ve inspired you.A Conversation with Debbie Macomber Q: From the personal stories you share in One Simple Act, it’s clear you have been practicing the art of generosity for many years. Why did you decide to write a book about it? Was there a particular moment or incident that inspired you to write it now?
A: I was in the Newark Airport for an early morning flight to Seattle and stood in line for a cup of coffee, which I promptly spilled once I got to the gate. Someone in the Starbucks line saw what had happened and brought me another cup coffee. I remember how good I felt that someone would be so thoughtful, kind and generous to bring me coffee. On the flight home I kept thinking about generosity and the way it affects our lives. Q: Acting generously is something that is intertwined with your own religious beliefs. Why was it important for you to share your faith with readers?
A: I can’t separate myself from my belief in Christ. I believe God called me to be His light in the secular fiction world. I pray about every book I write and ask God to guide me. My mission statement is to be a blessing and that’s what I long for my books to do; to bless my readers and gently guide them to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Q: The story of the boy who gives his loaves and fishes to Jesus in Galilee seems to have special meaning for you. How does the Biblical story illustrate the message of One Simple Act?
A: I hope you’ll forgive me for answering by telling you about our puppy Bogie. He loves to play fetch but once I toss him a doggie toy, he refuses to give it up. I discovered if I show him a second toy, he releases the first. It’s the same lesson God uses with us. We have to be willing to let go of what we hold before He will gift us with more. In the story of the loaves and fishes, the young boy willingly gave up his lunch and in doing so, he enabled God to bless those 5,000 men plus women and children with a satisfying meal. Q: A surprising aspect of the book is the scientific data showing that generosity benefits the giver with amazing health benefits. Do you think knowing of this will encourage more people to act generously?
A: That is certainly my hope. Q: One Simple Act is part autobiography, with you sharing details about your ancestors, your childhood, your family, and even your marriage. Is the book a way for readers to get to know the person behind the novels?
A: That’s more of a by-product of the message I hoped to share. Q: You mention The Hiding Place author Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsie, numerous times in One Simple Act. Why did Corrie’s story strike such a chord with you?
A: The Hiding Place
was one of the first Christian books I read following my conversion. Her ability to thank God for the fleas is truly a testament that God is able to use all things for good. When I read how Corrie was able to forgive the man who had been so brutal to her and her sister, I realized that kind of forgiveness can only come through God—a lesson for each one of us. Q: You’re published well over 100 novels. Why might readers who enjoy your fiction also like One Simple Act? Why did you decide to turn to nonfiction?
A: Basically I’m a story teller. One Simple Act is filled with stories—stories to illustrate the points, stories about me, stories that will touch their hearts. Stories are what remain in the readers mind. Even Jesus used parables to illustrate His points.
I never intended to have a non-fiction career and yet I have felt strong Godly nudges that our Lord can use my success in the fiction world to lead others into the kingdom of God. Q: What did you find to be the biggest difference between the fiction writing process and that of nonfiction? What challenges did you face?
A: It takes far longer for me to write non-fiction and so I had to come up with an entirely different way of working. Instead of typing, I record stories and have them transcribed. Then divide those stories into the chapter outlines and flesh them out with research. I find this much smoother process.
My biggest challenge is meeting all my writing deadlines. Q: You mention in One Simple Act that you have received letters from readers experiencing tough times, and you make a point of offering them encouragement. When you began your writing career, did you envision that you would be able to use your affinity for storytelling to help and inspire others?
A: When I first rented that typewriter and declared myself a writer, my primary goal was to write and sell a book. That seemed a big enough challenge. It was only after I sold that I paused and asked God to use me. Q: For people who aren’t affiliated with a church or who practice different religions, what would you like them to know about One Simple Act?
A: It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship with God. When we reach out in generosity, we are doing God’s work whether we recognize it or not. God loves us regardless of where we are in relation to him. Our kindnesses connect us to his heart and that’s a good start.