A Story of Small Things

by Mark Votava


I have seen the small ways of love that do miracles in my neighborhood. Whenever I see others run into each other and exchange a hug, or listen to each other out of concern for one another, or work alongside each other for the collective good of the neighborhood, or partake in hospitality around a dinner table, I always smile.  To me these are small signs of relational miracles taking place before my eyes.

  •  Being awake to the relational revelations

I want to be a part of these small things happening in my neighborhood all around me each day.  To do so, I must be awake to these relational revelations that come at me like the cool breeze on my face on a summer day.

  •  Understanding the small things in everyday life

My friend Nora understands that the small things in everyday life matter so much.  She first started to learn this when she was pregnant with her first child, Maggie, several years ago.  Our friend Alfredo would give her avocadoes or put aside soup as a sign of his neighborliness and care.

  •  The small relational ways God works

Nora came to realize the extent of Alfredo’s care for her family despite the hard time he has speaking English, as his first language is Spanish.  Alfredo did the small things that he could do at the time.  Alfredo did similar good deeds when Nora was pregnant with her second child, Bridget, a few years later.  Alfredo has been a sign to Nora and her husband, Nick, of the small relational ways that God sometimes works.

  •  Making a place that is safe enough for children

Nora has been living in the neighborhood for about nine years as a part of the Tacoma Catholic Worker.  She has raised her two daughters in the urban context of Downtown Tacoma and sees this as a good thing, even in the midst of the poverty there.  Nora does the small things of seeing to it that the place where she lives is safe enough for children, her own and others too.

  •  Striving for a peaceful and respectful neighborhood

She strives for a peaceful and respectful neighborhood where all people have a voice and are seen even if they are poor and marginalized.  Nora embodies a different sense of spirituality to her daughters in which neighbors live out their faith together in everyday life.  She is always showing love and belonging to her children through her gentle voice and her affectionate ways.

  •  It is better to help others!

One day seven-year-old Maggie, Nora’s older daughter, came to her asking, “Are there other people who don’t have a community that helps others?”  Nora looked at her in amazement and just said, “Yes, Maggie, there are people who do not have a loving community that helps others.”  Then Maggie said, “It’s better to help others!”

  •  Being an advocate for the marginalized and hurting

Nora realized that day just how powerfully her lifestyle had impacted Maggie: She had picked up on her embodied expression of spirituality in the neighborhood where Nora is an advocate for the poor, the marginalized, and the hurting in community with others.

  •  Gardening is something that brings people together

Nora loves to work in the neighborhood community garden with her children and others.  She feels gardening is something that brings people together in collaboration and friendship, while providing healthier local food sources.  For Nora, the community garden is a sacred place of putting our hands in the dirt, playing with children and taking in God’s creation on beautiful sunny days.

  •  A place of imagination, play, picnics, laughter, and friendship

The garden is a place of imagination, play, picnics, laughter, and friendship. The garden is a place of growth and healing in a lot of ways to our neighborhood.  It is sometimes the facilitator of great conversations, parties, and important community events such as weddings and celebrations.  The things that might seem to be small to some should never be underestimated in everyday life.  They are the vehicles to deep wisdom and relational care among us, as Nora has learned in all kinds of ways.

  •  The small is beautiful, glorious, valuable, and strong

The small is beautiful.  The small is glorious.  The small is valuable.  The small is strong.

  •  The small is countercultural, relevant, ordinary, and subversive

The small is countercultural.  The small is relevant.  The small is ordinary.  The small is subversive to the status quo.

Artist Luci Shaw has come to the conclusion, “There’s a surprising power in small things …”

  •  The small is actually really powerful

What we think is small is actually really powerful.  But it is not always rational. We cannot understand the small just like we cannot always understand Christ.

  •  We need to embody and “taste” the small as the body of Christ

His ways are too “small” for our imaginations.  His ways are too “small” for us to control and manipulate.  His ways are too “small” to be recognized.  We need to embody and “taste” the small as the body of Christ in the parish.

What is one story you can share of embracing the small in your neighborhood?