The Value of Little Things

Christmas is more than a month away (although you wouldn’t think so judging from the displays in stores). However, this post is a reflection on gifts—small gifts that can be given anytime.

You’ve probably heard the saying “Good things come in small packages” and the rejoinder “Like dynamite and arsenic.” Nevertheless, there are multiple cases where the first statement is true. Some of God’s gifts are tiny, and we are apt to overlook them. Think: a delicate violet growing in the woods, a drop of dew shining on a spiderweb, the twinkle in the eyes of an octogenarian. Then too there are the little favors God blesses us with: finding a parking space, a dentist’s report of no cavities, a safe trip driving through a blizzard.

Jesus is known for giving extravagant gifts: sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, boats full of fish to the discouraged, bread and fish for thousands of hungry people, life to the dead, not to mention, a renewed chance for eternal life for the human race. Then too, there’s the gift of the Eucharist enabling him to be with us down through the centuries.

But Jesus was an expert at giving small things too. He took time to bless children and cooked breakfast for his friends. I imagine he gave other presents not recorded in the Gospels, for example, fetching water from the well for his mother, cleaning his father’s workshop, allowing a poor person a discount on a bench he made, and letting his weary disciples rest a bit before traveling on.

As God’s children, we too, can bestow small gifts on people as a sign of our love for them. It doesn’t require much time

to hold the door open for someone,

to pick up a paper a person has dropped,

to encourage someone,

to let a shopper with a few items go ahead of us when we have a cartload,

to focus on someone who is speaking to us,

to talk a bit to the clerk at the supermarket,

to pat someone on the back after an achievement,

to send a card, even just one that says “Thinking of you,”

to pay someone a compliment.

In the past few days, I’ve benefited from others’ little gifts. A Sister accompanied me on a drive through the dark and rain, someone posted a positive comment on my Facebook post, another Sister shared her edible fruit gift with me, and a neighbor praised my haircut.

St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” First thing in the morning, smile at yourself in a mirror. Then smile at the first person or people you meet.

As a boost for your self-esteem and joy, be alert to little gifts God places in the world around you. And try spending some quiet time reflecting on presents other people have given you recently. These too are God channeling his love for you.

• What gifts have you given to others lately? What gifts have you received?

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