by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM October 11, 2020
If you, like me, live with an awareness that every act is consequential, read on. If you hold to the tenet that no act of love is ever lost, forgotten, or wasted, read on.
Last week I drove to the Post Office and was approaching the front door when a man who was exiting held the door open for me. As I saw him, I realized I’d forgotten to put my mask on, so I murmured my thanks and said I had to go back to the car to retrieve it. When I returned a few minutes later, the man was still waiting for me and still holding the door open. I thanked him profusely.
“Oh,” he responded. “No need for thanks. It’s such a little thing.”
Not at all! I shared with this stranger that what he had done, an act of kindness in waiting patiently and holding a door open, was in no way a small thing in our world. It had consequences. It sent me into the day feeling noticed and valued. In my understanding of how the Universe is knit together, “little” should never be used by ourselves or another to downplay the force field of love that we can offer one another.
I confess, the word “little” is a trigger point for me, and not because I’m 5’2” and petite. I say “Yes” to little when it’s used to describe things that are actually small in size. But “No” to little if it’s being used to diminish or dismiss the worth of any act for good set in motion by the human family. I believe our Universe is bonded and held together by incalculable words and deeds of care and compassion that might seem slight or insignificant but that are the stuff of our lives. They enrich our everyday moments with blessing. And they are not little.
An attentive mother cutting her toddler’s grilled cheese sandwich into fourths because that’s the way she likes it.
An exhausted father reading a favorite bedtime story one more time.
A teacher spending extra time on Zoom to help a struggling student.
A caregiver finding a favorite song to play for an ailing parent.
A teenager bagging groceries with care.
A writer wrestling to bring to birth words that she hopes will inspire.
A housekeeper wiping down touchable surfaces to insure the safety and protection of customers.
An activist living with intention and protesting peacefully for the common good.
Any one of us pausing to pray while viewing the day’s headlines.
Alison Luterman calls much of what we’re about in our everyday lives “the slow invisible work that stitches up the world day and night, the slow unglamorous work of healing.” There’s nothing little about this! Childcare. Cooking meals. Nurturing the growing needs and gifts of a young child. Ferrying children from one sports event or dance practice to another. Creating art. Praying with intention and awareness. Seen or unseen, this invisible work makes the Universe a place of greater beauty and hope. And it is not little.
Last week I led days of retreat for forty-three Sisters from three different religious communities. We began every session with an extended period of breathprayer, holding in love and compassion the needs of our world and breathing peace and acceptance out the windows from our chapel space and into a world longing for welcome and inclusion. Perhaps you felt those energies of love.
I wonder if the poet, Hafiz, had that in mind when he wrote:
“Now is the time for the world to know
that every thought and action is sacred…
Now is the season to know
that everything you do
Sacred, yes. But little, never.
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
If you are beginning your day, ask for blessing on your thoughts, attitudes and actions that you will carry into the hours ahead.
If you are near day’s end, review the actions that have been part of your day and name the energies of love that you have sent out into the Universe.
Ask the Holy One for a deepening awareness of the power of love and intention.
Featured image: Sai de Silva, Unsplash
Thank you for your prayers for the October 5-9 guided retreat I offered for the Nursing Sisters, Sisters of St. Joseph, and Cenacle Sisters who reside in Rockville Centre, NY. Special thanks to Joan McCann, CIJ, for her amazing organization and hospitality, and to all the Sisters for their prayerful presence.
Before the limits put in place because of COVID-19 restrictions, I was scheduled to travel at this time to Pembroke, Ontario, to offer two guided retreats for the Grey Nuns, October 18-26. Please hold in your prayer all who would have been part of these days. The retreat has now been re-scheduled to 2021.
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