This past weekend, St. Paul’s 7th graders gathered for their fall Confirmation retreat. In other years, we’ve spent 24 hours up at Camp Shalom, enjoying the woods, cabins, and adventures of this beloved camp just about an hour out of town. But, like many things these days, we changed plans to have the retreat at church. Even though we weren’t at camp, we still had a campfire. Around a firepit on the north lawn, under the stars and lights, we sang songs and had evening worship. And, of course, we had s’mores.
The kids took turns around the campfire with long sticks and marshmallows. Some burned them instantly, loving the char of smoking sugar. Others were patient, slowly rotating their marshmallows until they reached a perfect golden brown. They’d rush over to the table where an adult sponsor waited to sandwich the melting goo with chocolate and graham crackers.
As I was placing marshmallows on sticks, one of the 7th grade boys kept coming up to the table. I told him that we’d have seconds only after everyone had their first one. But he said, “no – this is for my friend. I’m really good at roasting marshmallows.” And he was, they were perfectly roasted and melty. Repeatedly, Will came to the table, roasting marshmallows for the kids in his group, his sponsors, anyone who wanted one.
Often at church we talk about using our gifts for the sake of other people, to bring goodness, joy, and healing to the world. We tell stories of people like Mother Teresa or Cesar Chavez or Dorothy Day, and the enormous things they’ve done. We celebrate how they used their gifts to alleviate suffering, or create better conditions for workers, or eliminate poverty. These things are good, but not everybody can be those superheroes of humble action. As Mother Teresa herself once said, “we can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Our gifts might be the obvious ones, but they could also be small things, like being able to perfectly roast a marshmallow. Our lives of faith are about using whatever gifts we have for the sake of others, to bring more love to this world. It’s about choosing to use our gifts not just for ourselves, but for others. To do small things, like making our friends a s’more, with great love. Those things can continue to be built into bigger things, like feeding hungry people, reducing homelessness, befriending those who are isolated, and making sustainable change.
Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth, “To each person is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Each of us have been given gifts to use for the common good. It could be building or teaching, singing or advocating, hospitality or writing, or maybe it’s roasting s’mores, like Will. Whatever it is, God has given us all gifts, so that we can keep doing small things, with great love.