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In praise of small things

An incomplete list of small but wonderful things. . . in no particular order.

In a mega/MAGA world, it is easy to hold up greatness as an ideal. Size matters, we’ve heard, whether it’s the size of our stock portfolio, pickup truck, political rally or congregation.

Today I would like to consider the ant. Not, as a guide to industriousness (in Proverbs), but only in terms of its size. Tiny, miniscule. Lilliputian perhaps. But when you consider it, try tasting it. Not for nutrition, but to experience one part of its defensive system.

When I take children on a tour of our farm, I stop at one of the ant hills on the edge of the hayfield. Then I grab an ant, dedicate its life to science, and squish it between my fingers. Then I taste it: acid, sour, bitter. It is formic acid, something that ants can “fire” from their behinds. So, consider the ant.

Small foods, farms & people

When visitors look at our garden, they often ask what kind of peas we grow: snow peas, edible podded? Nope. Peas for shelling green and sweet. But so much work for such a small thing.

I’d mention the size of a tin of caviar, but it doesn’t often illustrate much to friends of our socio-economic class so I note that one sardine is not much either of a meal, or one kernel of popcorn much of a snack.

Things get more serious. How many children are “worth it”? Is a large family better than a small one? Is one child less precious than six or seven?

And physical attributes? Need I mention the popular conception of the David and Goliath story?

Then we tour the pasture. Four Dexter cows. Dexters? They’re so small. You bet: and when our Cow had her calf, I was watching and the calf slid right out, “like a slug,” remarked my neighbour (who raises Angus). Tiny calves mean no birthing problems.

I mention great deeds in history. William of Nassau leading the Dutch fight for freedom from Spain’s dominance. The writing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation of the slaves. Frederick Banting’s discovery of insulin.

Great deeds from great men

One good deed, or is it two?

There are other deeds, maybe “smaller” yet worth noting even if the people involved remain anonymous.

Consider this note I received last week: “Yesterday a woman came into the café [where I work] with a card and bouquet of flowers. Said she’d been having a really shitty day the day before, and coming into the café raised her spirits. She signed the card ‘your community’. She teared up while talking to me and I gave her a giant hug and thanked her. When I was younger, I thought I needed to have “an important job.” Surprise! There are no unimportant jobs. I get to serve joy to people on a daily basis, and there is no measure for how important that is.”

From the scriptures

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’?” (I Cor.1:26-31, The Message)

  • Curt Gesch and his wife lead the singing via Zoom for a combined service of small United Church congregations in central B.C. each Sunday morning. In the afternoon, they lead a Friends and Family Zoom worship from their home. If you'd like to join that service, please write Curt at moc.liamg@36hcsegc.

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