Monday, March 16, 2015

Small Things

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7 NIV)

“You did something this morning that brought tears to my eyes,” said the woman sitting across from me.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  “When I got up from the table, you helped me put my coat on. You’re so kind.”

I spent last week in Atlanta, Georgia with a group of students at the City of Refuge, a shelter for homeless women and children. Each day we would start out eating breakfast with the residents.  On one particular morning, I was eating with “Jenny,” a sweet woman in her 60’s who said she had been a missionary in Mexico and was forced to flee drug cartel threats, leaving all of her earthly possessions behind.  With no family, she had ended up in Atlanta at the City of Refuge.  

As the breakfast time ended, we got up from the table and I slipped behind her, grabbed her coat, and held it out as she slipped her arms into the sleeves. She thanked me and we went our separate ways.  For my part, it was a simple act of kindness and courtesy that I didn’t really see as very significant.  I never gave it another thought until that evening when we again sat down for dinner and she expressed her deep gratitude.  

So many times, it seems among Christians the emphasis is on doing big things—big conferences, mission trips to the other side of the world, huge offerings to help ease suffering—to the point I think we sometimes forget the Lord so often works mightily in the small things, the ones that gain no attention at all, except from the ones for whom they are done. And this was very apparent last week as we lived with people whose lives have shrunk to the point of seemingly insignificance.  They own only what they can carry.  Life has been crushing by events and, sometimes, by their own poor choices.  And they know and feel that very few people really care.  

So the small things matter. A bed to sleep in, three meals a day to eat. People to talk with that listen to their stories and look them in the eye. And small acts of kindness, like helping put a coat on. These things communicate value and love—two things each one of us needs to feel whether we are homeless or have everything materially we need and want. 

My act of kindness brought “Jenny” to tears because her situation brings into question whether she has any value.  By just helping her with her coat, she felt someone cared for her.  It was a small thing, but very big to her.  

I don’t think it is merely the homeless who struggle with feeling validated and loved; I think this is a battle for each of us.  We long to be loved and valued.  And we most often experience this in the little things people do for us—the small acts of kindness, the ones that we see Jesus doing in his earthly ministry—touching a leper, talking with a woman shunned by her community, inviting Himself to the home of a hated tax collector.  Small acts that were transforming to the lives of those who experienced them.

Today, remember you don’t necessarily have to do “big things” for God. The small ones are quite sufficient and will have an impact far greater than you might think. 

© Jim Musser 2015

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