“I’ve been reading this book,” I begin, and I look up just in time to catch them throw each other one of those looks. You know, one of those Oh, no, here we go again looks.
I continue anyway.
“I’ve been reading this book called Small Things with Great Love and it’s about doing a better job of loving others. You know, loving a world in need. Giving more of ourselves.”
They are shoveling food in the mouth, cutting into the pork chops their dad just pulled off the grill.
“Small Things with Great Love, huh? What does that even mean?”
He is talking with his mouth full and I am feeling my lack as a parent.
“It’s from something Mother Teresa said,” I say. “She said, ‘We cannot do great things, only small things with great love’.”
My two children stare at me blankly. Their father is stone-faced.
“Well, anyway. The woman who wrote this book does something neat with her family. Once a week they give up their usual meal and have a simple one of rice and beans. To remember the poor.”
Knives and forks suddenly stop clanking on plates and three pairs of eyes bore into me.
I clear my throat.
“Rice and beans. Because that’s sometimes the only thing available to eat for most of the world’s poor. I thought maybe we might try something like that. Just once a week.”
“But I like meat!”
“Don’t you think most people would rather have meat if they could? That’s the point.”
They are not very open to my idea and to avoid a dinner table mutiny I hedge. Just a bit.
“Think about it,” I say. “We’ll talk more later this week.”
So I carry this book around with me all week and re-read parts of it out loud at the dinner table and pray about it.
The neat thing about Small Things with Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor by Margot Starbuck is how easy this book is to navigate. Starbuck has organized the book in a way that customizes reading for every person that picks it up. There’s a chapter for young people and old people and for us middle people too. There’s one for introverts and extroverts and single people. There’s one for caregivers and urbanites and people in school. And there’s one for parents. Did I mention there’s one for parents? I read the one for parents—um—more than once.
At the end of each chapter appropriate to me, there is a decision ladder that tells me where to turn next for further reading. So, after I read the chapter for introverts, I am directed to turn to the chapter for women, and then after that I go to the chapter for middle-agers, and such and so-forth until I work my way through book—exploring ideas and stories for missional living geared specifically to someone like me.
Each of these chapters has great, practical ideas for engaging with a world in need. And if you are like me—easily overwhelmed by life in general—you need some ideas and stories about real people with real lives who have found ways—big and small—to meet God’s desire for those who suffer to experience loving kindness through human agents.
This book gently yet unapologetically challenges me to take a look at my life and see if I am living from a kingdom viewpoint. Margot Starbuck encourages me to make every day decisions—every day moments—count. That’s one thing we understand at The High Calling. As Starbuck says in the chapter on work: “Whether you work in an office or a church, a clinic or a school, a restaurant or an amusement park, you’ve been called to bless a world in need.”
And no matter where you are in life, you've got to start somewhere. Like maybe with a simple bowl of rice and beans.
Want to know more? Here's a short video of the author talking about Small Things with Great Love.
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