A friend of mine is a high school teacher. Occasionally, he gets to teach a class on rhetoric: the skills needed to be an effective public speaker.
Toward the end of one such class, he asked his students to answer a simple feedback question: what was the most useful thing you learned during our time together? He had covered the subject matter thoroughly, exposing students to some of the best speeches in modern history as well as helping them find their voice. He had taught them how to think critically about style and content. And yet, once he heard back from students, he was surprised by one particular response: “I was grateful,” the student said, “that you taught us how to outline our speeches on note cards.”
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.
Jesus was fond of telling parables to illustrate his point. He liked to talk about the small things of this world: the value of a child’s faith, the power of a mustard seed, the importance of a single lost sheep. But we are not used to thinking this way. We are fond of larger-than-life heroes and consequential decisions made in moments of crisis. The matters about which Jesus spoke just aren’t as exciting or newsworthy.
But the little things matter a great deal more than we give them credit for. When someone asks about the best way to make an impact on any number of issues, you can often sum up my advice in a simple aphorism: just show up. Show up to sort clothes and pack food boxes. Show up to the boring planning meeting, again. Show up and listen to people with whom (you think) you have little in common and whom you might not even like. The simple act of being there speaks volumes. At just about any time, anywhere, that is one of the most important things we can do for one another.
It may be that history will call upon you one day to step up to the plate and take a big swing; it may be that your actions on that day will change the course of history. Until that day, let us be faithful in the big little things.
—Fr. JavierTags: From the Clergy, Hope for the Journey