The Carr Fire, as of today has destroyed nearly two thousand structures and claimed seven lives. It is the sixth most destructive fire in California’s history. All it took to start this tragic inferno was a single spark of a tire rim scraping asphalt in an environment of extreme drought and oppressive heat.
In the daily routine of experiencing life, pay attention to the little things. They can make a significant difference. We often have more input and choice over how we handle the small things in life. Throw a tiny pebble into a pond and the entire pond surface will have ripples of waves across it. A horse with a bit can plow a field; a ship with a rudder can deliver goods and people across an ocean; a person with an empathetic tongue can share kindness, compassion and love.
Great changes can occur due to small acts. Consider patient zero of the AIDS epidemic; this one individual’s actions created a worldwide epidemic. There are those first “invasive” bugs that inadvertently make their way to new lands and then overrun native ecosystems. Rain changes to snow or water to steam in the difference of one degree. It takes very little dirt to contaminate a bottle of purified water. Paul Revere’s ride was one man’s action that rallied a nation. Cancer starts as a single cell among the 37.2 trillion cells in your body.
“Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things…I am tempted to think there are no little things.” – Bruce Barton
The difference between success and failure is often a very small margin. Two people with virtually the same amount of skill and talent can differ vastly in the amount of success they achieve. You don’t have to be 10 times or 20 times or 100 times better than the next person. You can simply be slightly better to achieve remarkable results. In the world of professional golf, less than a stroke per round separates the top player from the fiftieth best player. Yet, this stroke difference is millions of dollars in winnings.
It is important to appreciate life’s little things- a smile, a hug, a song bird chirping, the sunrise or sunset. It is also important to do the little things- say hello to someone you pass in the office or on campus; hold the door open for a person walking in behind you; a compliment for no reason. Our local Country radio station has a Thursday morning feature where callers share their ‘life simple pleasures’. Simple pleasures that put a smile on your face and that make life great.
Rushing through the day to accomplish all those big tasks, we become blind to the non-verbal signs of God working in our lives. God’s presence is in the trivial things, the ordinary things in daily life. God works through the lives of ordinary people. History records the great names, but the mission moves forward through the acts of ordinary people. Consider Priscilla and Aquila, providing a presence that strengthened the early church and credited with instructing Apollos, a major evangelist of the first century. Without them and others would the early church have survived?
There is also the myth of “small” sins, the kind we think don’t really matter. The kind we believe we can commit while remaining “good” Christians. Trouble is, “small” sins never stay small – murder starts with anger and adultery begins with lust (Matthew 5:21-30). Small sins injure our relationship with God. In Luke 16:10, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.”
The Bible is full of examples of small acts making great differences. In the book of Joshua, the prostitute Rahab faithfully hides the emissaries and then assists their escape; enabling Israel to later enter the promised land. David with his rock slaying Goliath and Peter raising his voice on Pentecost where three thousand people obeyed the gospel. Then there is Mark’s Parable of the Mustard Seed, (4:30-32), “where the smallest of all the seeds on the earth, becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches.”
It is these little things that we have more control over, especially when we pay attention to them. It is in the daily grind where we need to appreciate life and experience the presence of God in the little things. God works through ordinary people, you and I. Let us be trustworthy in small matters so that we can be trustworthy in great ones. In the words of Mother Teresa, “We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.”