I just returned from my parish’s centennial celebration. The honorary chair for the evening was a former mayor of our city and lifelong member of our parish. Now in his eighties, he told a story of an event that happened seventy-five years ago! He was a little boy preparing for his first communion. It was a big deal for the pastor of the parish to come visit his classroom. Every one tried to do his very best and be on his best behavior. On one such occasion, Father asked for a volunteer to lead the “Our Father.” The future public servant eagerly raised his hand and was called up in front of the class. The pastor and the class waited expectantly for the prayer to begin. Unfortunately, stage fright overtook the little boy and he forgot all the words. His mind completely went blank.
As he said, the priest could have done any number of things. He could have made an example of him in front of the class. He could have reprimanded him for not knowing his prayers. He could have called someone else up. Did the priest do any of these things? No. What he did do was whisper the words behind him so that he could say the prayer and no one was any the wiser. This was such a small kindness, yet seventy-five years later, an old man still remembers it and willingly shared it with a large crowd of people.
Mother Teresa said that “We can not do great things. We can only do little things with great love.” She also preached the five finger gospel with one of the following words represented on each finger: “You did it to me.” She reminds us of the words in the Gospel of Matthew that whatever we do to the least of our brothers, we do to Jesus. So often in life, it is the little things that matter.
Most of us do not lead lives which change the world on a large scale. Rather, we live quiet lives in which we touch a select few – our families, our friends, our neighbors and co-workers, and those we encounter simply going about the business of our daily lives. Yet, how we treat those people we do come in contact with can make a huge difference.
Do we respond to our family members with kindness and love or do we treat them with impatience and frustration? Do we help our co-workers and do our work with a cheerful spirit or do we complain? Are we good neighbors to those who live around us? Do we treat those who serve us at the grocery store or the bank or a restaurant with respect or do we grouse at them and treat them badly?
Every day we have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. We can share a smile, give a hug, and spend time with a child. We can feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty and do so with a cheerful heart. We can give of ourselves and make someone else’s day a little bit brighter. We can remember as Jesus said, and Mother Teresa reminds us, that little things done with great love are little things done for Jesus. They may not be remembered in the big scheme of things, but God will know. Then again, it just may be that a simple act of kindness may change the life of another person and will be recalled three-quarters of a century from now! Little things do matter an awful lot.