Small things. What do they matter?
According to the tabloids, not much, especially given the media led focus upon the larger than life world of celebrities, movie stars, sports figures, and billionaires. Given these “worldly images of success” that are presented to us on a daily basis, we might even be tempted to consider our own existence as small and insignificant.
And yet, in the end, it is the small things that are the fabric of our lives. To the world, these gestures mostly go unnoticed; and yet, it is through our small acts of love that others are provided the encouragement and ability to flourish. And through them, we see our participation in the mystery of God.
A mother providing meals for her children- nourishing their small bodies in order that they may grow.
A father instructing his son or daughter in a sport- teaching them life lessons.
A teacher offering an encouraging word to a discouraged student- helping them on their way.
An arm around a friend’s shoulder after their experience of the death of a dear one- supporting them in their grief and helping them move on.
Or perhaps, it is simply a brief moment from a busy day in order that we might open our ears and hearts to another.
Blessed Mother Teresa would often reflect upon small things, likening them to drops of water- drops of love. While individually they seem insignificant, when they are combined with thousands of others- they can fill an ocean! Teresa would herself experience the power of small things as she walked the busy streets of Calcutta. Once, coming upon a dying woman laying in the street, the only way to comfort her was through the extension of her hand. That simple gesture, however small, must have meant the world to that woman- knowing that someone cared. Teresa’s one act of kindness would lead her to thousands more, and ultimately to the founding of the Missionaries of Charity. Today, numbering more than three-thousand members, they serve the poor throughout the world- one kind act at a time.
St. Therese of Lisieux (the Little Flower) realized early on that she would not be great, at least in the worldly sense; so she made it her daily goal to practice small acts of kindness. As we know, her earthly life was cut short when at the age of only twenty-four, she succumbed to tuberculosis. But just thirty years following her death, Pope Pius XI declared her a saint. And during the pontificate of Blessed Pope John Paul II, she joined both Sts. Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena as the third female Doctor of the Church.
Some years ago, I was blessed with an assignment that led me to a warming center in downtown Detroit. In my ministry to the homeless, those small and nameless poor helped transform my life and provide me with a Christ-centered world outlook. In the end, truth be told, it was they who ministered to me.
This week, may we remember that God Almighty chose to enter our world as a tiny baby. In time and through the nurturing of the Holy Family, He would grow into adulthood and eventually stretch out His arms for you and me.
And that is no small thing!