Think Small, Because Small Changes the World

June 7, 2010 at 8:23 pm Leave a comment

One of my father’s good friends is a man named John Duffy.  He is a brilliant criminal defense lawyer, and he is always doing something to help others.  As a young lawyer in the ’60s, he risked his life to go down south and become a “freedom fighter”, using the court system as a battleground to defend the African Americans’ rights to vote.  In the 70s, he was quickly gaining attention for his work as a lawyer, and he was the main lawyer to try the very high-profile ABSCAM case.  (I don’t remember what this was, but your parents probably do.  And it was a big deal).  He was poised for success, and indeed had already tasted much of it.

There was only one problem.  He was an alcoholic, and it was destroying all he had.  He lost his marriage, his family, his license to practice law, and his dignity.  He lost everything.  He went to rehab, but it didn’t do much to help; all he wanted was to get out and drink. 

And then one night, one of the staffers stayed late.  He gave a few hours, after everyone else had gone, and talked to John.  He believed in him, believed he could turn his life around.  And John’s life was forever changed by those few hours that no one knew about. 

John has now been sober for over 30 years.  He won his license back.  His brilliant work in criminal defense has continued, he remarried, and he has been honored for many things.  He has also helped thousands of former alcoholics recover, devoting himself to pulling others out of the same pit he was in.  He has done so much and helped so many.

And all because one man spent a few hours with a (hopeless) alcoholic.  No one else knew about it; he probably didn’t consider those hours very important.  But small things change the world.

Helen Keller says, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”  And Mother Teresa has been oft-quoted for the comment, “We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” 

In the end, it is often the small things that are the most important and have the greatest impact.  And Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed – the tiniest seed imaginable.  And yet, “though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree…” (Matthew 13:32).  The very Kingdom of God works and spreads through the little things, the seemingly insignificant things.

The big things are important.  And don’t give up your dreams or passion to change the world.  But don’t forget that often the most important things are the small seeds you plant, one at a time.  You might never see the tree – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t grow and it’s not there.

Think small, because small changes the world.

(Tomorrow: Stand on your head, because the world is upside down)

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Entry filed under: Quotes, wisdom.

Week of Wisdom Stand on your head, because the world is upside-down

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