The saying “do small things with great love” is attributed to Mother Teresa. While I do not infer I am comparing myself to Mother Teresa, in my own small way, I have discovered that indeed small things do genuinely matter.
When we think of altruism — kindness toward others — it is easy to feel very very small if we compare ourselves to the likes of people who have done great feats and whose names are recorded for posterity. Yeah, those whose monikers you can find in Wikipedia or by completing a Google search. Most of us will never see our name in print aside from our social media account, and you know what?
However, you will be happy to know that the lack of recognition in textbooks or around the internet does not make your existence meaningless.
Let me expound further upon this notion.
I was born in France to average parents of average means. There was nothing special to my last name nor my first name for that matter. My parents provided for their family to the best of their ability as their ancestors had done before them. By all appearances, common people living a common life.
I am the first in my family to finish High School. Upon receiving my diploma, I traveled 5,347 miles to the United States to attend a University. Three and half years later, I was handed another diploma magna cum laude.
My parents had huge aspirations for me. Indeed, I was destined to have a fantastic job with a hefty salary, married to a doctor or a lawyer, and with the customary 2.3 kids.
There were a lot of expectations resting on my shoulders.
What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
Except, after college, my life took a different turn, and I shattered all my parents’ expectations.
And, not in a good way.
I suddenly had cold feet at the idea of working in Washinton or New York city in a high powered job. I did not know who I was and what I wanted to do. I felt a bit lost. By then, I had spent 20 years of my 22 years on earth in educational institutions. I knew nothing else. I did not feel prepared for life. Not. In. The. Least.
I supported myself with small menial jobs with which I was content enough. It paid the bills.
I still felt a strange sense of isolation. I was a foreigner in a foreign land, and while I did not want to go home, I was not sure where I belonged.
In the midst of discovering “myself” (whatever that means), I met hubs, and as the cliche goes, the rest is history. I was in love. I fell hard and deep. We were married within a short time and started having babies soon after.
For me, being pregnant, giving birth, and nursing my babies was life-transforming. I felt as if I had gone through some otherworldly portal of womanhood. I can’t explain the transformation. Words seem so small and fall short of the internal metamorphosis I felt within.
I know I am not the first woman to be pregnant nor to give birth. As a matter of fact, this practice does not make me stand out in any way (aside from the number of times I performed the task).
When I gave birth to my first child, I also birthed a new me. A bit of a goddess-warrior-mama-bear came out. My life was forever altered. Years of babies, diapers, baseball games, 4-H meetings, and the likes came and stayed (I still have little ones Y’all). Then something strange happened. Some of my kids grew up — too fast — and subsequently left and married.
Flying The Coop
I still don’t comprehend how someone who inhabited my body for ten lunar months (sounds more dramatic than nine months and trust me, it does feel like ten), and fed off my body, could so easily pack their back and with a nonchalant flick of their wrist go off into the sunset.
I am not naive. I knew this time would come and I did raise my kids to fly. At times, I even looked forward to their flying solo. Except, I expected they’d have a harder time when the time came. I wanted them to miss my absence.
Maybe those feelings are mainly due to the fact that so far, only sons have flown the coop and they stink at staying in touch.
This tearing away — while expected and good — left me a bit unbalanced. I was prepared for my firstborn to go and he did not go far, so his departure was not so traumatic. However, I had not thought much beyond his leaving, and when my third born left — at 18 — 475 miles away, this came as a bit of a shock.
I cried at his departure.
I cried when he missed his first Thanksgiving at home and his first Christmas. I cried when his 19th birthday came, and he was not with us. Mainly, I cried at his seeming lack of concern for us as evidenced (in my mind) by his anemic phone calls, no letters…not much of anything except to let us know he was alive.
Then, number two found his wind as well and joined his brother. I again cried. And despite promises he would be in touch most of our communication has been initiated by me.
I think part of their lack of concern is that they don’t realize how quickly life passes by. I have always been around…maybe they feel I will always be. From my vantage point, I know life passes by rather quickly and that it is rather unpredictable.
I miss them.
And, I want them to miss me.
I share my sob story to say this: lately, I have often questioned what my purpose for being here on earth was. Certainly, I was not put here solely to birth and raise babies, change diapers and then to see my kids go without so much as a backward glance in my direction.
Is this “IT”?
Needless to say, I have experienced a crisis of sorts.
The funny thing is because of my experience, compassion for the loneliness and suffering of others tugs at my heart. It is from this compassion and the desire to do something that I put feelers out.
I decided to encourage some people who felt alone. My plea only brought forward one woman who did not pursue anything after our initial contact. Instead of being discouraged, the well wishes and encouragement of a few left me determned to forge ahead.
I came to this conclusion: why ask for strangers to come forward when — in my own cirlce of influence — I had friends going through difficult time. Some I knew personally, others I had encountered through social media. Either way, these people were before me. These were the ones given to me and it fell upon me to do something, anything, no matter how small and insignificant.
Do Small Things with Great Love
So, I went to the store and I bought cards. I also bought a subscription to an ecard service. I designed a form and a spreadsheet. I gathered address, birthdays, special dates and a slew of others — seemingly — insignificant data. Then, I lifted my proverbial sleeves and went to work.
Now, three months have passed and I have faithfully sent monthly cards as well as ecards. And, while the recipients of my devotion have been grateful and thankful, they are not the only ones who have benefited from this experiment. I have benefited as well.
Focusing on others is healing somehow. I feel usuful and appreciated. Mostly, I feel I do make a difference — even if it is minute — to the people who feel they are no longer alone. Then again, knowing that there’s someone to care is far from minute.
Now, I understand Mother Teresa’s saying, “do small things with great love.” We won’t all be called to perform great deeds, but we are all called to do something. The small — seemingly insignificant things — which are before us and which we are called to do them with great love…nothing more nothing less.
Think about it.
The great names who perform great deeds are just one individual….within a multitude. The rest of us are many. If we all do small deeds, we can change the world, or at the very least the world we live in.
Think about it…a $100 bill is no more important than 10,000 pennies.
Some are called to be $100 bills and others pennies…all have their place and all are worthy.
Yes…even YOU…even when you feel less than.