Mother Teresa said, “We cannot all do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.”
Our celebrity-driven, consumer-oriented, highly-competitive culture doesn’t exactly value small things. Many individuals internalize this in unhealthy ways (raising my hand here). We justify the rat race in our own minds, but instead of being clever rats, we’re really just lemmings following the crowd over the cliff.
I’ve heard well-educated, smart, privileged people say, “The problems are so big, there’s nothing I can do.” I have heard people scorn Christians who went to New Orleans after Katrina to help with the clean-up, saying they were self-righteous, just doing it to get into heaven and not really concerned about those people.
That may indeed be true for some people, but who cares? They still got down and dirty helping people dig out from the mud and sewage and nastiness. I doubt the homeowners they helped care what their attitude was...they just appreciated that someone was helping them. The government sure wasn't.
People can come up with all sorts of excuses not to do big or small things. I don’t have time. It won’t make a difference anyway. The problem is too big. That’s life. Those lazy bums just need to get jobs. I don’t know those people. Someone else will help. I pay my taxes, and government programs do enough. I’ve got enough problems of my own.
One day, my sister and I were in my mother’s front yard cleaning out our cars in preparation for trips back to our own homes. An elderly man walking by saw all the car seats and baby paraphernalia in the yard and asked if he could speak to us. His daughter had a baby and they didn’t have money for diapers. Could we spare a few?
Could we spare a few? Yes. Yes, we could.
That day, I made a promise to God and myself that I would try to pay attention to small needs. I regularly get sucked back into my own rat race, so I need structure to keep me focused on seeing the need around me. That’s one reason I go to church. Many people see churches as places of greed, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness, and sadly, they are right. Our church isn’t a center of greed like the mega-churches can be, but I see hypocrisy and self-righteousness there all too frequently. I also see plenty of people who genuinely want to help others by doing small—and even big—things every day. It’s a small church committed to missions and outreach in our community, state, country, and world. Despite its small size, our church makes a big difference with love, despite a few hypocrites and nay-sayers.
If church isn’t your thing, the internet has lots of ways to do small things. My favorite is Do One Nice Thing, a site that started as a way to perk up Mondays and is committed to bringing opportunities of giving in small ways that make a difference all week long.
Operation Write Home is big in the stamping community as a way to send homemade cards to the troops so they have cards to send home to their family and friends during deployments. Another stamper read that I sent cards to the troops and emailed me about how she wanted to do the same but her relatives discouraged her, saying there were too many scams and the cards wouldn’t make it overseas. She wanted to know how I knew for sure that my cards were getting to the troops. I replied that no one ever knows for sure in charitable giving. It’s an act of faith. But if no one had that faith, no good—large or small—would ever get done. She thanked me and said she’d rather be a person with faith that she could do some good than a person of skepticism who did no good for anyone ever.
Sending a can of tennis balls to help underprivileged kids in Colorado or $10 to Haiti or a box of cards to the troops is a small thing. It won’t change lives or save the world. But it will make a small difference with great love. We can’t all be Mother Teresa, but we can all follow her lead in our own small ways.
What are your favorite ways of doing small things with great love for your family, your community, your nation, or our world?