The holidays are over. We are all trying to settle back into the natural rhythm of our lives. Many of us are busy reflecting on what we want from our lives in 2023 and choosing our New Year’s resolutions. Though having goals for oneself is a worthy endeavor, it can cause us to forget to live in the here and now. It can cause us to focus on the extraordinary and miss out on the ordinary things in life that we need to experience. As Matthew Kelly from Dynamic Catholic points out, “The world is always trying to seduce us with the extraordinary. The culture fills our hearts and minds with spectacular dreams about hitting home runs, but life is about getting up every day and hitting a single.”
How do we, then, learn to, as Matthew Kelly puts it, cherish the ordinary? How do we get up every day and hit a single? Well, it starts with acknowledging to ourselves that we can’t all do great things; at least not all the time. What we can do, as Mother Teresa put it so eloquently, is “small things with great love.” For me, this is good news. Though I have difficulty wrapping my head around greatness, I can easily figure out how to do small things with great love.
Doing small things with great love starts with noticing those around us at every moment of the day. At times we are so focused on what we are doing or where we are headed that we don’t notice those around us. Doing something small with great love can be as simple as smiling at others as we walk down the street or holding the door for someone when we are entering a building. It’s about being aware and living in the moment. You’ll never know how you can impact the life of another if you are not paying attention.
To give you an example of this, I am going to tell you a story about a day when I, as Matthew Kelly puts it, “hit a single.” Many years ago, I was walking along Boylston Street in Boston. The temperature was frigid, but luckily, I had many layers of warmth surrounding my body. At that moment, I took the time to thank God that I was warm, despite the piercing, below-zero winds. Usually, when I am caught outside in this type of weather, I have my head down and I am rushing to get to my destination, so I can get inside and be warm. For some reason, that day, although I was rushing to get indoors, my head was up and I was paying attention to what was around me. That’s when a man, propped against the side of the building caught my eye. “I need gloves,” he said to me. I couldn’t imagine how cold his hands must have been as he pinched them under his armpits for warmth. To be outside in that weather without gloves seemed horrific to me, so I handed him a $20 bill. He gave it back to me saying, “The CVS won’t let me inside to buy them.” His statement hit me like a ton of bricks. He wasn’t allowed in the store! How appalling! “Wait here,” I said, as I marched into CVS and bought him several pairs of stretchy gloves so he could layer them. The man was waiting by the door when I emerged from the store. He smiled gratefully and thanked and blessed me.
What that experience taught me was that we can’t always change the world, but we can change the world in a single moment for a particular person. That’s what living in the here and now is all about. We have to pay attention to what’s around us or we might miss an opportunity to do something ordinary; to do something small with great love.
Deb Egan grew up in a Catholic family. Throughout her adult life, she has participated as a church volunteer in many capacities, including teaching Religious Education, being a Eucharistic Minister and Lector, Ministering to the elderly and homebound, and Facilitating Small Faith Groups. She has been trained by Evangelical Catholic and became a member of the Build the Faith Team in April of 2017.