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The world celebrates things done on a grand scale, the building of big things and awesome places, and it celebrates “great people” who have powerful connections, impressive credentials and great influence as celebrities.
My son and I had a conversation last night about how very differently Jesus viewed things. The disciples told the mothers of young children to get lost when they brought their little ones to Jesus for a blessing. Why would a great teacher have time for someone’s squalling brats? Be gone, women. He has bigger fish to fry.
Instead, our Savior took the children in his arms. He told his arrogant disciples that unless they became like the little ones in their simple faith, they would never see the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 18:3)
We often scorn little things in our lives, the mundane, the seemingly worthless things we do, day in and day out. The cleaning of a kitchen or bathroom, the changing of a diaper on a baby, shopping for groceries. Yet no act is meaningless when it is done in love.
Mothers know that the eye contact made with little ones while a diaper is being changed triggers some of the biggest, sweetest smiles. Augustine once said of his mother, “I would have perished a thousand times in my own filth without her care.” It really isn’t such a little thing after all, caring for a baby. Every touch and every contact with a child is a chance to ensure that child knows they are cherished, and that helps them grow.
It’s amazing what little things come into our lives from others that aren’t little at all. In the last year, I cannot tell you the number of times someone has sent me an email right at the moment when I needed encouragement. I received one from Germany a few weeks ago, and just last week, one from Northern Ireland. They were listeners who once heard me on the radio program I co-hosted. They just thanked me for the work I had done and told me what it had meant to them in their lives. The times I think that I wasted 20-some years of my life are always interrupted by a “little thing”—a kind note from someone that made all the difference, and I know it was God’s hand of kindness through people.
The example set by our Savior was unmistakable as you read through the Gospels. What you begin to see is that there are no “little things” in God’s economy when they are done in love. The woman at the well had a little conversation with Jesus – a woman he wasn’t even supposed to speak with as she was a Samaritan (and one who was co-habiting after numerous failed marriages.) That “little” conversation offered the woman eternal life — living water that would never let her thirst again. Many lives were touched in her village, because she carried that joyful message to all who would listen.
No matter how unimportant you think your life is, the little things you do matter. I have a friend I have known since high school. She has been in a wheelchair from a motor neuron disease since just after college. She lives in assisted care due to the progression of her disease. But thanks to Facebook, she is able to share music. My friend posts beautiful music videos that bless everybody who will listen. We swap music videos, and she occasionally posts on my facebook wall, “more music!” Together, we enjoy God’s blessing of music. She blesses my life.
The phone rang at home the other day. It was a very difficult day in many ways. At the other end of the line was a family friend of many years. “Just checking on you guys, seeing how you are doing…” A call at the right moment from someone who cares. What a head lifter! A “little” thing that wasn’t little at all.
What little thing can we do today that will serve someone around us? Every time I get impatient with the demands of a toddler, now nearly a preschooler, I am reminded of the example of our Lord. He could have so easily sent the mothers with children away. He had the credentials as a Big Person. But for all time He modeled for us what really matters, and He showed us how it is done when He took those babes in His arms and blessed them.
There is an old song with these words:
Does the place you’re called to labor
Seem too small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own.
It is so easy to accidentally hurt somebody. How many times have I been thoughtless or careless in a word or action and ended up causing somebody some pain? It isn’t that we intend to hurt someone most of the time. But without realizing it, we sometimes do just that.
The same is true for bringing a blessing to someone. Sometimes we plan out a way to bring joy to someone we care about. Other times, when we are going about our day, we can do it without realizing it, just by being kind.
“Mom, I’ve never had a party, and I’d like to for Christmas,“ said my son. He was in his last year in high school when we lived in South Carolina, and he had made some good Christian friends.
“Excellent idea,” said I. “Tell me how many and what you want me to make for food. I’ll get the house ready.” That particular house I called my Thomas Kinkade house because it had a white porch with brick steps and was perfect for Christmas decorations. We were putting up our tree that week, and I vowed to make the house look as pretty as possible for the party.
We decided on food, and I phoned in my order for some things I needed. Kids began accepting the invitation, and my son was pleased and excited about it. The day before the party, however, he came home from school and into the room where I was working. I knew something was wrong. He flopped down on the love seat in a discouraged manner and said, “About the party, never mind. Nobody’s coming. Everybody but one or two has canceled out on me.”
While he didn’t say much more, I knew he was deeply disappointed. I felt tears prick my eyes. Why did kids have to be so insensitive? Couldn’t they have stuck with their commitment to come? Obviously not. Sadly, I made a mental note to call the store and cancel the order. But I forgot to call, and later that night, my son came downstairs grinning.
“I hope you didn’t cancel the order. The party is on!” he said.
He had emailed one of the last kids who hadn’t canceled on him to let him know that the party was off because nobody could come. That wonderful boy told my son to hold on, he’d get back to him. He did get back in touch—saying he had found several kids who wanted to come to the party. It was definitely going to happen after all!
That student will never know what his casual kindness meant. He saved the party that ended up being a success, encouraged a shy fellow student who needed it, and blessed the student’s mom as well. It was one simple act of kindness that will always be remembered.
It happened many years ago to my grandpa. Grandpa Thomas grew up in the Missouri Ozarks in a family that was hardworking and respectable, but without much money. He attended a one-room schoolhouse, and every Christmas they had a program where the parents and community would come, the children would sing and recite, and a Santa character would hand out candy and oranges. It was the highlight of the year. But one year, Grandpa and his two close-in-age brothers had no proper clothes to wear to the program. My great-grandparents’ were aware of propriety back then and as the boys only had overalls to wear, their parents decided they couldn’t attend. You can imagine how heartbreaking this was. But. But the wealthiest boy in the school happened to hear that Grandpa and his brothers weren’t coming. When Grandpa told him they couldn’t because they’d have to wear overalls, the rich boy promptly announced that overalls would be fine because that’s what he had been planning to wear. In the end, Grandpa and his brothers went to the Christmas program because one boy had a heart of gold. He humbled himself so that his friends would be there to enjoy the party and not feel out of place. Several generations later, his act of kindness is still remembered.
Each day provides a new opportunity to be a blessing to someone, even in a small way, beginning with our families. The harsh word left unspoken or quickly retracted with an apology, the extra mile you go for one of your children or your husband, just because you love them, the kind word or needed encouragement, none of it is wasted.
One of my sons saw a frail older person in a grocery line who had a lot to bag. (This was at one of those do-it-yourself stores.) “Can I help you bag those?” he asked. The offer made a big impression, even on the check-out clerk. “What a fine thing to do,” she told me. “You don’t see that very often.” Sadly, she is probably right.
One small act of kindness really isn’t so small at all. Those little kindnesses get stored up in that place in our hearts where we treasure life’s blessings. We can pull them out, years later, and remember them again with gratitude.