August 5, 2011

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Small acts of love have a way of multiplying

Patti LambThe other night, I caught a few snippets of the nightly news and the news, I can assure you, was not good. There was talk of violence, famine, disease and other unsettling topics.

At times, the world seems so big and the picture appears so bleak. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and small and helpless. I turned off the television feeling like there is little I can do to make a dent in society’s problems.

But that same evening, I was reminded of the reality of the ripple effect and how any good act, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, can gain momentum and make a difference for the better.

Months ago, my friend gave me a recipe for one of the most delicious snacks I have ever eaten. And the best part is how easy it is to make.

Delighted by the recipe, I made the dessert for my sister and dropped it off at her home in hopes of making her smile. My sister enjoyed it so much that she made some, and took it to her friend who had suffered a tremendous loss.

That evening, my sister called to tell me that the simple dessert she delivered to her grieving friend put a bright spot in that friend’s day.

My sister said, “She tasted it, and smiled for the first time in weeks.” For a few seconds, her grief was lifted and she let in a little bit of joy. It was a step in the right direction.

Now you might think I am simple to find such grace in something as ordinary as a recipe or an overdue visit to a friend or relative.

But I think love, and even the smallest good works done in the spirit of love, have a way of multiplying.

I witnessed this phenomenon yesterday when a man held the door at a bookstore for a woman carrying a baby. Then that woman, despite having her hands full, held the door for the next person. I saw the same kind of thing happen in traffic when several lanes had to merge into one lane on a heavily-traveled road. One kind driver would let another car in. Other drivers continued this trend until all cars weaved into the flowing lane.

I remember a quote from Blessed Teresa of Kolkatta: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

Too often, I approach life as if it’s all or nothing. Because I may not be able to write a big check to a worthy cause or volunteer the better part of my time to a worthwhile effort, I sometimes think I can’t do much to help things.

But I think that’s the wrong outlook. Instead, if we just do what we can, wherever we are, to help someone or some cause, then we are on the right track. Our actions to help the world don’t have to be big and showy. They can be humble and quiet.

Blessed Teresa also said, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

If we can bring comfort to a struggling soul or lift someone’s burden—even if only temporarily—that is doing something to help. We may never see the way our kindness has the ripple effect, but we must be confident that acts of love multiply.

I think of the way a simple recipe shared with love by my sister helped re-introduce joy into the heart of her friend, and I am convinced that love grows.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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