September 2, 2016

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

In this great big world of ours, little things still matter

Patti LambWeeks ago, I stumbled upon a beautiful tribute in a magazine. A man wrote a eulogy for his lifelong friend, wherein he said, “He was the sort of guy who was ‘big’ in the ‘little’ things.”

That sentence jumped out at me. I snapped a picture of it with my phone so I’d remember. Although I’ve heard that message conveyed many times before, it caught my attention that day.

In this great big world, sometimes I forget that the little things still matter.

I conveyed this to my kids and they asked what “the little things” are.

I rattled off plenty of examples: Holding the door for someone. Showing gratitude. Acknowledging a job well done. Remembering a special occasion without being prompted. Praying for those who are hurtful. Doing something kind, even when there is nothing in it for you.

They sort of nodded their heads like they understood. To bring an example to life, I shared a story with them.

Recently at back-to-school night, my son’s teacher requested that parents send in candy as currency for a social studies unit her students would be studying.

The next evening, that teacher left me a voice mail not only to thank me for the candy donation, but also to see how we were doing since we were new to the school. My son is one of 32 students in her class, and she teaches multiple classes, but she made time to say thanks for a bag of Skittles, while extending a warm welcome to the school.

“One 28-second phone message was the bright spot in my day,” I said to the kids.

It reminded me that little gestures can be more powerful than we recognize, but I wasn’t sure my youngest child was processing it. I usually have to use sports analogies with that one.

One evening during the Olympic games, my daughter cheered and howled when a U.S. athlete broke another record. I told my daughter that we can’t all be amazing athletes who break records and go down in history, but we can be big in the ordinary, day-to-day stuff.

“I know, Mom,” Margaret interrupted. “We’re supposed to do ‘little things,’” she added. Then my daughter said something which made me think she finally got it.

“So it’s like letting Henry have the red Popsicle, and I take the orange one,” Margaret said.

Yes, Margaret. From an 8-year-old’s perspective, that’s a decent analogy.

Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small acts with great love.”

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta will be canonized this weekend—on Sept. 4—as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, proving that little things, done repeatedly and with love, matter quite a lot.

Years ago, when challenged that her work was trivial because “the sea is so great,” she gave a lovely response.

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean,” she said. “But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop,” she added.

This world needs love in infinite ways. How can we extend kindness—in the smallest of ways—from right where we are at this very moment? How can we work to heal this broken world, and work our ways back to God, one act of goodness at a time? We won’t necessarily be praised, and we almost certainly won’t be canonized, but God sees, and his heart is happy.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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