I spent a few hours in recent weeks stuffing hundreds of donation request letters into envelopes and placing surveys into concert programs. A busy clerk at CVS said to me, “I know you buy a lot of medication for your dog. Here’s the name of a website where you can get discount coupons for some of the meds.” A friend who knows I’ve been struggling with some issues at my church reached out with a kind and uplifting email. A spontaneous lunch with an old and dear friend (in a trendy bistro that was once our childhood shoe store) made the annual trip to place wreaths on beloved family members’ graves just a little easier.
All trivial, seemingly insignificant things. And yet, I find in this season of excess, that’s it’s those small things that buoy us up. We become overwhelmed with the idea that all of our holiday preparations should be Pinterest-worthy and find ourselves entangled in the web of “gotta’ get ‘er done.” Granted, I do enjoy my over-the-top Christmas trees and I love to plan special holiday meals, but this year, I have been especially cognizant of the small things that make the big things possible and the small things that remind us to, well, simply love each other.
I was blessed this year to sing beautiful Christmas music with incredibly talented musicians in truly spectacular choral concerts. But it was the stuffing of envelopes, the loading of risers and percussion equipment on trucks, (in the rain), the umpteenth rehearsal of the processional, the fine tuning of every musical nuance —those little things that can frustrate us and make us crazy—that’s where the magic happens. That’s what brings the audience to its feet and tears to the eyes. It’s the old analogy of the beautiful swan gliding gracefully on the surface while underneath there is frantic paddling. You can’t have one without the other.
Lately, I feel as though I am rubbed raw from abrasiveness, not just in the greater world, but sadly, even with people and places that are close to my heart. It seems we have become so driven by personal agendas that we’ve lost sight of common sense, of humility and of the greater good. So when there is a kind gesture, a word of encouragement—even a scribbled note handed to me by a drugstore clerk, I am so grateful. Watching former President Obama in a Santa hat distributing gifts in a children’s hospital. Reading words from a wise friend’s email that gave me a glimmer of, if not hope, at least perspective in a painful situation. Another friend coming to our concert after a long day of work and then reassuring me that I did not mess up the steps in the choreographed piece (even though I did.)
Our bishop, Michael Curry, is right. It all comes to down to love and for most of us, it’s the small things that get us there. Not the Hallmark card or the extravagant gift but the unexpected kindness from a stranger. The extra effort made by a loved one or family member. Making time to talk and more importantly, to listen to each other’s stories. Pushing past the surface, past the political correctness, past all the internet noise and simply saying and doing what’s going to help another person instead of tearing them down. Shining a light instead of cowering in the darkness.
Wishing you a Christmas filled with small things.