Ash Wednesday is hours away. Winter is rumbling through its final bursts of white. The digital world is erupting again in scandalous exposures of wrong. Somewhere in the rawness of all that is the quiet truth that goodness abides in each person. Goodness manifests in the simplicity of glances exchanged, moments spent, lives touching. In the end, those little things are what really matters.
Little things: a card or a note, an unexpected gift, an offer to help, an outside-the-box suggestion, holding the door, speaking a kind word, smiling at a child, making eye contact with the wheelchair bound, offering that penny. Little things speak of the goodness that resides within. More than that, “little things” place the other at the center: the action itself indicates that something outside of self is noticed, valued, important. In a world frenzied by immediate gratification and the prying eyes of posted videos, little things quietly and gently suggest that there are alternatives to the relentless exposure of social media and the cruelty of cyber-bullying, to the nuances of texting relationships and the loneliness of a technologically interconnected world.
Little things remember that everyone is doing the best they can with what they’ve got, even if it does not seem like it. That little action is about recognizing that simply being human creates untold challenges, and in this moment, kindness matters. It is devoid of judgement and exploitation. It not about gaining advantage or credit.
Little things validates the idea that, just as we are capable of mercurial and volatile emotion, of denial and defense, we are equally capable of incredible kindnesses, gentleness, warmth and graciousness. Stripped away from cell phones and screens, practicing little things nurtures the grace and goodness that re-births the divine spark in each of us.
Little things is an echo of Therese of Lisieux’s nineteenth century philosophy, of Francis of Assisi’s Brother Sun and Sister Moon, of Jesus’ Beatitudes. Each became an anchor of sorts, a reminder that in a world of complex social institutions, layers of cultures and subcultures, competing purposes and divergent goals, there is a definitive place for simplicity, stillness and intentionality. Those little things, after all, are found in the moments of stepping away to that space where the needs of others are visibly manifest. Stillness within, gentle taming of self-concern, allows the recognition of a need for action. Intentionality empowers the deliberate choice that makes little things happen.
Little things are the sustaining moments of certainty that give life to the Christian message. Practicing the art of little things provides a rhythm of being that reminds us that we are the hands and heart of Christ; little things belong to each of us and can benefit all of us.
The institutional church may be buried in perplexing and tragic scandal; God may be weeping for the brokenness of humanity. Little things remind us that there are humbling moments of grace, of awareness of God’s presence in the world that are made possible through one another. It is not something that rests in the realm of the ordained or is tasked to the hierarchy. Little things speaks of the goodness of a God who cares and nurtures that reality through human conduits. Little things enable the least of us to embrace each of us with and give hope to the whole of us.