It’s been said that a turtle cannot move unless it sticks its neck out. Yet sometimes, with our necks out, we’ve tried to make headway, only to find we’ve made circles in the sand.
I wouldn’t call myself a computer expert by any stretch of the imagination, but on two separate occasions in one day last week, two friends were overwhelmed by their tasks at hand. They had tried countless times to figure out their computer problems, but with no success, they were on the verge of exasperation. “I’d be so grateful if you could just stop over and tell me how to do such-and-such,” one friend said to me.
A couple key strokes later and my friend’s computer was good to go. “I know that what I needed help with was not a big problem,” she said. “But I was stuck and didn’t know how to fix it and it was preventing me from getting my work done.”
As I fixed this and deleted that, she talked of some major stresses in her life. Yes, she had a little computer glitch, but what she needed was just to talk out her big worries to someone who would listen and encourage.
Another friend, a teacher, had a printer in her room stop working on her. Several times a day she had to run upstairs to print papers. When I arrived, I clicked a couple of keys and her printer problem was solved. I told her that it was just a little thing that had solved the printer problem. “Maybe so,” she said, “But you have no idea how much you have helped me and how much time this is going to save me.”
My stopping by to see my friends was, to me, a little thing. But to my friends, my actions were a big thing.
Mother Teresa is credited with coining this phrase “I do little things with big love.” If you read her life story, the little things she did actually were quite significant. Four thousand people now live because of her saving their lives. She did it in small everyday breaths and believing the prayer she said of “Give us this day our daily bread.”
When tasks pile up, little things cluster together and we panic. Life becomes like it did for Eliza in Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden, where “if she didn’t learn to stop her mind racing on ahead of her she’d end up running into a mountain made of her own imaginings.” In no time we can go from being in control to feeling overwhelmed.
For about six weeks I had tried to connect with a friend but hadn’t heard a response. I texted her and wrote, “I know when you go quiet on me, that you are overwhelmed. Call when you can. In the meantime, please know that I am praying for you.”
She emailed me about a week later. “Thank you for your text and for granting me grace. I will call you just as soon as I can.”
Today is the first day of my three-months’-long favorite time of year, where life is lived in Tennyson’s “skies as clear as the June-blue heaven.” It’s the beginning of summer days, picnic baskets and stress-free days, the kind that refresh and make us breathe to the depths of our belly buttons.
But today, for many, is one day closer to the last day of school, another day closer to finalizing a graduation party, another day closer to when the kids will be home from school and begin to say in a week’s time, “I’m so bored. There’s nothing to do.”
If you have a friend who’s gone quiet on you or there’s someone you know who just needs a good listening to, or help cleaning her house to prepare for a grad party, extend a listening ear and a dose of grace. Do it with big love. Maybe even bring a picnic backet along. You’ll be amazed at how a small act can be a stress shifter and breathe calm into another’s day.