Small Things

What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta




Today, at the start of a fresh week, I find myself still reflecting on some of the ideas from my last post. A close friend gave me the angel in the picture above. A paraphrase of Mother Teresa’s words is etched onto the bottom of the angel’s dress. When she gave it to me, my friend said that she’d chosen it because she knew that I sometimes question the weight and value of my life, and that she wanted to say that it all counts. It all matters. I put the angel up high on a shelf in my writing room, overlooking my desk. I have glanced up at her often and thought of my friend’s kind words, so needed and so graciously given.

I have many plans and dreams and goals, winged things inside me, striving for flight and presence in my everyday world. I have found myself turned inside out with a sense of being less than, not enough. I look at women who seem to have accomplished so much and I wonder what I can do to be more like them. Every moment I am filled with anxiety over what I should be doing. To do one thing means that I cannot do something else, and what if the something else is what I’m supposed to be doing instead?

For almost twenty years I have given myself to my home, and I have loved that. I still love it. I love caring for my garden and cooking meals for my family. It gives me pleasure to create a space in which the work of family can happen and grow, a place where we can learn to love each other better and welcome others into that circle of love. But I have been so preoccupied and troubled by the desire to expand my own territory, that I have been unable to enter fully into delight in these precious things. And with that has come a feeling of pressure on my writing, to find ways to make it profitable, to justify it and quantify its worth.

Over the past few days, I have come across words: from my husband, in blogs and quotes, and in the still, small voice of God. These words have begun to quiet my heart. They have reminded me that the small things I do with love, have value. It’s the “with love” part that I find most compelling. Today was filled with little things. I ran errands; I gave my son a driving lesson; I made calls and checked mails and put on the washing. In a moment I will head to the kitchen to finish cooking dinner. These things have so often been a source of anger for me; they’ve felt like roadblocks and obstacles to the “important” things. But today I was mindful that they are important. And that mindfulness has helped me to see the beauty in simple, mundane, everyday activities.


4 thoughts on “Small Things

  1. Thanks so much, and thanks for your words on Sunday. (When you said it sounds like I’d already made up my mind about what I want and what I need to be doing, and that I was trying to layer something on top of that…) Those words really created a kind of clarity for me. I so appreciate you!


  2. i know that this dance between the ordinary and the extraordinary is one that i have grappled with too so i found echoes from your reflections into my own life. thank you. Mary oliver has been a useful teacher in this as she so values the ordianry moments watching a heron or a dandelion or a sunrise. in the moment she watches she seems to say there is nothing more important to be doing. in the moment of cooking there is nothing more important to be doing – how to enter into really knowing that is the challenge. it seems to me that comparing is a real obstacle to peace – whether it is comparing myself with my better view of myself – ie i could/should/ought/ to do more, do different, do better or comparing myself with others – leads me down the rabbit hole of doubt, disppointment, despair.
    and the other obstacle is when i create a hierarchy of what is valuable as oppsed to seeing every conversation, every moment as valuable, almost irrespective of its content, that the moment has intrinsic value because i am in it and i am alive – if i wear the right glasses. now that is the tricky part !!


  3. What you say about comparison is so true, something I struggle with often. And hierarchies of value too. Sometimes creating a kind of pyramid of priorities helps, and sometimes it hinders. How to be present, as you say; that is the challenge!


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