Once when I was in charge of the songs for a retreat Mass, things went very wrong. I came too late to begin the opening song, I started one song too high, and so on. After that fiasco, I sat in the chapel feeling ashamed and miserable. As the other sisters filed out, one of them gave my shoulder a little squeeze. Suddenly things weren’t so bad . . . because of that little gesture.
As Saint David was dying, he urged his people, “Hold fast to the faith and do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about.” This wasn’t the David who slew Goliath with five little stones, but a sixth century bishop of Wales. To this day Saint David’s “Do ye the little things in life” is a popular expression among the Welsh. These last words of his are excellent advice. Who doesn’t know the importance of a little act of kindness? These small things can transform a gloomy day into a sunny day full of promise. Mark Twain once claimed, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Imagine what the world would be like if no one did certain little things like taking out the garbage.
Most of us will not make an impact on the world by monumental, colorful, and impressive actions. We will not appear on the evening news or the cover of TIME Magazine. We can, however, achieve greatness, not to mention holiness, by the good little things we do. As Blessed Mother Teresa noted, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
What are some small things that might be considered insignificant but make a significant difference? Calling an old friend just to say hi, sending a sympathy card, e-mailing a word of encouragement to someone going through a crisis, letting a person with only a few items go ahead of us in the checkout line, and smiling at someone are samples of acts that infuse hope and peace in others’ hearts.
Jesus himself taught the value of little things. He said, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). A person who picks up a piece of litter on someone else’s lawn is likely to vote to protect creation on an environmental issue. A Catholic who remembers to say grace before meals is apt to be in church for Sunday Eucharists. And someone who loans a neighbor a shovel will probably spend time working at a shelter for the homeless.
Vincent van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” One great thing achieved by doing many small things is a beautiful, meaningful life that culminates in eternal life.
When has a little thing made a big difference in your life? You might do a little thing today that will be hugely important to someone.