26 July 2010

The Power of an Example

There is an African proverb that reads: if you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito. The mustard seed and the measure of yeast about which we hear in today's Gospel are both very small entities which produce effects that seem disproportionate to their size. That appears to be a common characteristic of the kingdom of God. A fisherman from Galilee, a tax collector, a virgin from the house of David and a carpenter from Nazareth: all instruments used by God for the glory of his Kingdom; none, at first glance, seem likely candidates to help change the world.

What does this have to do with most of us: the ordinary Jane and Joe? The power of a good example is, perhaps, one way in which we can live out this Gospel. Doing a good deed with sincerity and love is something that can have a tremendous effect, far beyond the deed itself. When we see someone who responds to the need of another with kindness and loving attention, it stirs something in our hearts. (If it doesn't, we should have our pulse checked.) The next time we have an opportunity to perform an act of kindness -- and one which might require a sacrifice of time, convenience, comfort, etc. -- we might be more likely to say "Yes" to the opportunity because our heart was moved by the example of another.

Imagine how many good deeds are left undone and how many kind words are left unsaid because no one was there to encourage the doer of the good deed or the speaker of the kind words with the power of a good example. Taking the time to respond gently to a tiresome neighbor, making polite conversation with a coworker who may be difficult company, inviting a lonley-looking colleague to join our lunchtable, stopping to help a senior citizen cross the street, helping a stranger pick up groceries she dropped in a busy parking lot: all of these small acts can have a profound impact on both the beneficiary and all those who are privileged to witness the good deed. We will never know, on this side of eternity, how many other good deeds were done because of one small gesture performed with love. Kindness is contagious: spread it far and wide!

"Great occasions for serving God come seldom but little ones surround us daily."
St. Francis de Sales

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