When I was at Target one recent morning, the person working the register asked if I was on my way into work. I mentioned that I was a pastor, and she responded sincerely, “Thank you so much for your service. This has been such a difficult year, and so many people have lost their faith. You are doing important work.”
This genuine and beautiful gratitude from a stranger caught me a little bit off guard. She didn’t know that I’ve had difficult weeks, that I feel like I’m running on fumes, or that I’m not doing enough. She doesn’t know my backstory, or even where I serve. She was simply grateful that someone in her community cared about others.
Another day, my husband drove some of our congregants to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations at a local FEMA location. He told me that, while they were waiting in line, he asked the National Guardsman who was standing there how he was doing. He responded with surprise, “No one ever asks me that. Thank you”—which then led to a deeper conversation.
I often tell my congregation that the work of peacemaking we are called to is generally the culmination of seemingly small things that aren’t small to the recipients. Small acts of kindness, of love, of grace have the potential to change someone’s day, week, or life. It can be overwhelming in our world these days to wonder what we could possibly do to help. We feel small and insignificant in light of huge, looming problems. Even those of us who are pastors feel the weight and pressure of wondering if we are actually doing any good or making a significant impact. It is easy to fall into the pit of despair, to surrender to discouragement, to give up hope.
God has always taken what is small and insignificant and used it in tremendous ways. God has used simple, ordinary people to do great things for the kingdom. God has used small and simple acts of faith to do wonders.
But I was reminded by the woman at Target, and by the conversation my husband had in line at the vaccine clinic, of the hymn “Little Is Much When God Is in It.” I’ve always thought about that song in terms of finances—probably because it is often sung on Sundays when the sermon is about tithing. But I don’t think that’s the only meaning we can draw from the song. God has always taken what is small and insignificant and used it in tremendous ways. God has used simple, ordinary people to do great things for the kingdom. God has used small and simple acts of faith to do wonders.
First Corinthians 1:26–29 tells us, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
Our small acts of love, kindness, and grace in this world aren’t nothing. They sow seeds of the kingdom in ways beyond our understanding. Our small financial gifts sent to places of great need aren’t insignificant to the people who are helped. Our small words of encouragement feel like balm to tired hearts. Taking time to notice the humanity of others helps them remember their own belovedness. These simple kindnesses may seem small, but they can and do create a big impact.
And when all of our small acts are put together, the world is truly transformed. So if you are unsure what to do in the shadow of overwhelming darkness, be a small, flickering flame of hope. Illuminate what you can, in the ways you can, and know that, for the people who see it, no matter how few, their lives will be forever changed by the light of Christ that shines through you.