Progress by the Inch

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Recently, it came to my attention that I am no longer six feet tall. Somewhere along the line I’ve lost two inches because of gravity, aging, and spine surgery some years ago. I have fallen from that lofty height I was so fond of in my youth. It was fun being so tall, it came in handy when picking sides for basketball and when someone short needed something from the top shelf. People liked to comment on my height and the attention was mostly, but not always, enjoyable.

Five feet ten is still respectable, but this fall from being six feet tall got me thinking about how much we look at life with a measuring lens. Football is a game of progressive yards and sometimes inches. Cooks count in teaspoons. Accountants count in decimals. Weather forecasters in probabilities. We focus on small things.

It’s notable that the Gospel story about Jesus feeding thousands of people mentions that a few fish and seven loaves of bread  were on hand. From this small number a great miracle happened. Someone in the vast crowd came forward with this little pittance of a lunch and said, “Here’s something that might help”. And God made something small something great. Something small gave hope.

In other places in the Gospel, other small things mattered. “If I could only touch his cloak…” a small gesture that leads to healing.  A sower sows some seed. Think about how small seed is. It can feed millions. Jesus sought just one lost sheep among 99. God cares about even one sheep.

So why is all this worth writing about? Because small steps matter. A few inches of progress toward greater fairness can keep us from being discouraged. Small steps can be subversive acts of prophetic faith when the world’s pain and suffering can be deafening to those who are listening. (And I think you are listening). I suggest that we should never underestimate the value and importance of noticing that small things can lead to progress on our way to making the world better for someone else.

A small moment when I stop what I’m doing to hear about someone’s personal struggle. A phone call to a public official supporting important legislation, voting in an election. Sharing dessert at lunch.

These days when we are facing daunting and seemingly almost insurmountable problems, small steps matter all the more to keep us from loosing hope. So this is a reminder that small things matter. Sometimes small is just the right size to move a mountain. Hope lies in seeing the way small things make a difference.

Oh, and just to say, one of the advantages of loosing two inches of height is that I notice my slacks fit better. They cover my ankles better now.  Small is beautiful.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

13 responses to “Progress by the Inch

  1. Love your comments on small things matter. Not many of us get to do grand and lofty things, but we can do small things every day. Your mixture of practical advice and humor did my heart good, I am so glad you took the time time to write and open my eyes to see many “small things” that need doing.

  2. Wow! I’ve been short all my life and always had to be first in line and always in the front row for pictures for which I was not always happy about! Your reflection gave me a new insight into the blessings of ‘short’ and small!

  3. Thanks so much, Anne, for your beautiful and inspiring message. I’ve always been short of stature and desired that I was taller. But I’ve learned it doesn’t matter how tall or short, thin or pudgy we are. What matters most, as you state, is that we take all the small steps that are needed. Marilyn

  4. Small things most ceertainly do matter, and if we can concentrate on giving thanks for the many small things (many of which we take for granted) we’ll find ourselves far happier than when we make note of the things that, to us at least, aren’t right in our world. Trust in God to handle the big stuff, give continuing thanks for the small everyday blessings . . . and be happy!

  5. Anne,
    I like this reflection. It amplifies today’ s gospel where Mary sees God in the small and lowly. Loretta

  6. I too have lost inches. I used to be 5’7″ and I am now 5’4″. But I am gaining around the waist and hips. I think it is all the desserts we have here at Sansbury. Corina

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