Tag Archives: erosion

Small Actions, Large Effects

Grand Canyon

I don’t know if you have ever thought of the effects of small actions. Without the erosion caused by innumerable drops of water over thousands of years, there would not be the large and incredible spectacle of the Grand Canyon or Niagara falls. Without billions upon billions of tiny snowflakes piled up over centuries and centuries and years there would not have been the slow movement southward of the great glaciers of the North American continent and their gradual retreat. And the Great Lakes, which are really inland seas, would not exist.
Wesleyan University, where I started college, had several buildings which dated to 1831, when the school was established. Some classrooms buildings which were built around 1890 were still in use when I was there in the middle 1960’s. These structures had wide stairs made of slate leading to the upper floors. Now, slate is rated a 6.5 on the hardness scale for minerals. The scale runs from 1 (talc) to 10 (diamond), so slate is not a softy but neither is it a girl’s best friend. And yet those steps, as hard as they were, were hollowed in their centers by the action of hundreds of thousands of footsteps over the years. Small matters do add up.
I was thinking about this a few weeks ago when I decided to take all the change that I had squirreled around the house in assorted bins and boxes and jars and pockets and have it counted at the coin counter at the credit union. I chose that one because they didn’t take a cut of the payoff. I expected my haul would total less than fifty dollars. Instead, as the counter churned and churned some more and heads turned all over the office to see who was cashing in big, my haul came to over a hundred dollars, which I promptly deposited in our credit union savings account since I did not want to face you if I had spent it all on ice cream at Nathan’s. I couldn’t eat that much ice cream at one sitting and you were all at work. I know you understand. And it was cold out.
The point of all this is that small actions done for the Lord do have large results. We are reminded that all Mother Teresa wanted to do was provide a decent place for the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta to die in dignity. And I’m sure you can think of other examples of small deeds which have had large results.
There’s a story told from the earlier days of aviation of an airplane loaded with orphans which was running out of fuel and needed to land at night on a local airstrip. The power failed as the aircraft was some distance out, meaning that it would be impossible to land safely on the airfield. The plane did not have enough fuel to divert to a field with power, but the airport manager thought quickly and called as many people as he could think of. (The landline phones still worked which was fortunate since cell phones had not been invented at the time story took place—and it’s also a reminder that it’s a good idea to hang on to your land line in case the power goes out.)
As I was saying, the manager asked the people to drive their cars to the airfield. They lined up on either side of the runway with their headlights illuminating a safe path for the airplane. It landed successfully because of the coming together of the light from the cars. A number of souls were saved that night, and this story serves as a parable about what we can do if we do indeed let our light shine before people, in small actions, small deeds of kindness and small words of consideration.

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