One of Mother Teresa’s favorite mottos was “Do small things with great love.” There are about three or four iterations of this particular motto, but all with that refrain of doing small things with great love.
Isn’t that what making the world more beautiful is about? We can’t just swipe a huge oil pastel brush over the ugliness in the world to paint a sunrise or a sunset in its place, or a “happy little cloud” like Bob Ross. That’s not how it works. Because the world is cursed with sin and sadness, it will always remain present. But in our own small acts of redemptive defiance, we can resist the darkness. We can’t erase it, but we can plant a garden. Or we can make a pie. Or we can fold laundry. And in doing those little things with great love, we redeem and cultivate.
A few nights ago, I was up in the middle of the night. I’m a bit of an insomniac, to begin with, but pregnancy emphasizes that. And I was worried about a few different things. So I began reading poetry. At 3 a.m. (Please tell me that someone else, somewhere in the world, does this?)
I turned to Wendell Berry because his poetry has been so soothing to me in the last few years and in particular, his book This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems.
Teach me work that honors thy work,
the true economies of goods and words,
to make my arts compatible
with the songs of the local birds.
Teach me patience beyond work –
and, beyond patience, the blest
Sabbath of thy unresting love
which lights all things and gives rest.
And this became a prayer for me. Work that honors God’s work. Small things done with great love. They’re both so interwoven that it’s difficult to see where one leaves off and the other picks up.
This past month has been one huge march, placing one foot in front of another. November is always our family’s most busy and haphazard month, with birthdays and Thanksgiving and trying to intentionally get things done so that December can be a restful season of Advent. But each of the kids has demanded attention in different ways.
I often notice that when some of my children want attention, they’ll pick up a handicraft and ask me to help work with them on it. It’s usually not well-timed or convenient. But it is a ministry. It is heart work. And it is teaching my kids that love is available and that love becomes available when needed. I’m teaching my kids about prayer and how the Father always is ready to listen to them. It’s nothing earth-shattering. It’s saying yes in a moment when my flesh and to-do list long to say no.
It’s also teaching the kids to fight for beauty in their own way. It’s teaching them that they have the agency to choose colors and designs in their own projects. They have creative license. But at the same time, their handicrafts are bound by the rules/laws of that particular craft, material, and gravity. It’s teaching them to take pride in their work and the joy of making for others. It’s giving them a way to do little things with great love.
One step at a time. One stitch at a time. One moment at a time.