The Beauty of Small Deeds

There are certain statements or arguments that you hear over and over again that just grate on your last nerve. They sting because you know that they are not based in truth, and it pains you to know that these lies are being perpetuated. In the world of social media, they often appear in a meme that people share because they think that it is clever, when in fact, it is shallow. There are a number of these kinds of things that really hurt when I encounter them.

Recently a liberal friend shared a meme on social media that depicted a person asking a room full of people a question: “How many of you are against abortion?” The cartoon showed all of the people raising their hands. In the next scene, the person asked, “How many of you are willing to adopt?” The cartoon showed all of the people sitting with their hands down. Around the same time, another liberal friend sent me a text saying that he knows a lot of pro-life people and none of them are willing to do anything to support the women who are in these circumstances.

I admit that this is a huge trigger for me. It is a trigger for me because it is absolutely not my experience. I know a large number of active, vocal, pro-life people and they all do something to support women and children. Some volunteer with and/or give money to crisis pregnancy centers. Some serve as foster parents. Some have adopted a child. Many sponsor children in need all over the world. Most spend time with children in their own communities who do not have parents or whose parents are unfit. While I have no doubt that there are people who claim to be pro-life and do not behave in a way that aligns with these beliefs (as there are people on all sides of the political spectrum who do not behave according to their views), the majority of my friends who are vocal about their views do not fit into this category. Most have sacrificed something in order to support women and children, and knowing of their sacrifice, I am saddened that people are so quick to dismiss it.

Part of the problem is that in today’s world of social media, we only know certain things, and many people who give generously of their time, talents, and funds do not share that information on social media. They do it quietly with little fanfare. So no one knows that they recently gave up a Saturday to counsel women at the local crisis pregnancy center; but they do know that they recently shared a pro-life story on Facebook. So they criticize.

Another part of the problem, and perhaps a bigger part, is that small deeds are not valued anymore. (Heck, even asking a date to prom is a big to-do these days. How exhausting it must be to be a young person today!) Only big deeds make headlines. I once had a friend say that a person couldn’t be pro-life unless he/she agreed to adopt EVERY unwanted child. Well, this is nonsense on the face of it, not to mention impossible. No one can adopt HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of children. In fact, not everyone can even adopt one child. Some are not in a stage of life where they can do that, some do not have the financial or relational stability to raise children, etc. For those who can, we pray that God would make the way for that to happen. I consider adopting even one child to be a BIG deed, and I am thankful for those who do that. I pray that I will be among you someday. But, I want to challenge the notion that only big deeds make a difference. In fact, small deeds matter deeply.

Let me tell you about some people who participate in some beautiful, but small, deeds that change the world. These are all people known to me, but they rarely, if ever, post about their deeds on social media. Nancy volunteers at the medical clinic for those who cannot afford healthcare. Molly works with people who need jobs, some of whom are recovering addicts. Ralph spends time with men at the rescue mission, leading them in Bible study and counseling them. An elderly couple at my church became foster parents simply so a young boy with a very troubled home life could stay with them occasionally. Chris lends his gifts as a photographer to create ads for crisis pregnancy centers in urban areas. Chuck teaches a young girl whose father died how to make balloon animals. Tara sponsors more children through Children International and World Vision than anyone I know, and she doesn’t just write checks; she actually knows the children’s hopes and dreams. Bonny spends time encouraging troubled youth on their Facebook accounts. I could go on and on and on; I’m just scratching the surface. Some of these deeds are bigger and require time and money. Some are incredibly small, requiring an encouraging word or maybe a small note. Put together, they are a beautiful cadre of life-changing deeds.

We live in a time when these kinds of deeds are not valued – when someone taking an at-risk youth to dinner is brushed off as nothing. This is dangerous, because when we start to think that these things don’t matter, it lets us off the hook from doing them. So many of my friends have fallen into this trap. They don’t think that anything that they can do really matters, so they resort to petitioning the government to help – because the government can get BIG things done. That’s nonsense. I am not saying that there isn’t a time and place for petitioning the government, but if you only have time to do one thing, I’d say that doing a small deed for someone in need would have much more of an impact than writing a letter to a government bureaucrat. For example, the Women’s March occurred a week ago and millions marched all over the world. I’m not going to say that it was pointless, because I don’t think that it was. But, if that same number of people took a Saturday to mentor a young girl, I think that it would have an even bigger impact for the cause of women than the seemingly big impact of the March. No, it won’t get the media’s attention. No, the government won’t take notice. But it will mean the world to that one girl who got your time and attention for the afternoon.

My best friend recently spent a month aboard a rescue vessel that was pulling refugees from small boats and dinghies in the Mediterranean. She shared her stories on social media, and I saw lots of people praising her for her good work (rightly, I might add!) and lamenting that they could never do anything so big and so brave. She always fired back and said something to the effect of, “You may not be able to do THIS, but you can love and care for refugees in your own backyard!” Exactly. It’s tempting to think that small deeds don’t matter when we see others participating in big deeds, but we must resist the temptation to believe this lie.

One of my favorite lines from Nicholas Sparks’s The Wedding is, “Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in the things we do for each other every day.” Anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship knows that while BIG demonstrations of love are nice – and called for occasionally – it’s the small deeds over a long course of time that demonstrate true love. Don’t let social media convince you that small deeds don’t matter. Small deeds matter profoundly, and knitted together with other small deeds, they create a beautiful tapestry of love and devotion that has the power to change the world.

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