No such thing as little
This weekend, our family went to see a local production by some amazingly talented youth and kids of the musical Matilda. The musical, based on the Roald Dahl book, tells the story of a girl who stands up to a bully schoolmistress, Mrs. Trunchbull. My favorite lyrics in the musical have been stuck in my head for the last five days.
Even if you’re little you can do a lot, you
Mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
Might as well be saying you think that it’s okay
And that’s not right
And if it’s not right, you have to put it right
Now imagine a 9-year-old, with a brilliant English accent singing this, and you might just get inspired to do what it takes to do a little to try to put things right.
I doubt that the writer of Matilda the Musical was thinking about parables while writing these lyrics, but Jesus’ tells a few stories about not letting “a little thing like ‘little’ stop you.” He talks about how the reign of God (the way things would look if God’s great dream of love and life for the world became real) is like a mustard seed. This tiniest of seed grows into a massive shrub which houses sparrows, owls, and squirrels. It’s like a bit of yeast that when added to a big bowl of flour gets mixed up by a baker woman who makes enough bread to feed the whole neighborhood. Jesus says that even with the tiniest sized faith, with God, seemingly impossible things can happen.
In the face of the bigness the devastation, death, and complicated terrors of these days, our little faith, our tiny actions, our miniscule hope often feels utterly pointless. But this hopelessness leads us to either become mired in despair, or to turn our eyes away from the pain of our neighbors (near and far) and pretend like everything is fine.
But if we take Jesus (or Matilda) seriously, or if we look at all to history, we can know that little things add up and shared small actions multiply. In response to violence and heartbreak on the other side of the world, in our own country and in neighborhoods, our little acts matter. If nothing else, they are ways we can keep investing ourselves into a just and good future that could, actually, be realized. Our small acts mean that we dare to imagine, even if we cannot yet see, God’s great dream of love and life for this all this world.
We can make donations that, even if small, add up with others to great compassion. We can listen, learn, and lament. We can speak out and show up. We can refuse to settle into easy answers, prejudices, and anything that denies the humanity of another. And we pray and pray and pray, with our mustard seed faith. Little things, that are not actually little.
So, let’s not let a little thing like ‘little’ stop us, and, in the words of Mother Teresa, “do small things, with great love.”