It seems impossible, but there is incredible power in small things.
As we go about our business, as we watch the news, and as we experience life, most of us have accepted the reality that those things that are big will be the winners. Billionaires will win out over millionaires, a 300-pound football linebacker is a good bet in a barfight, the state will win over a township in a legal dispute, and so on. Face it, when David faces Goliath, Goliath usually wins.
But increasingly, I am being reminded of the enormous power of the small.
We know this almost unconsciously, but we are prone to ignore it in our conscious decision making. Here’s what I mean: Elephants and whales are huge, but there aren’t huge piles of dead elephants or whales anywhere. Why? Because as soon as the large animals die, the small animals get to work. Lions, sharks and other predators take their turn, then buzzards, fish, and smaller creatures, and then, beetles and tiny fishes, and finally bacteria and other microscopic creatures set to work. And in this system, the web of life, each time the creatures get smaller, they grow greater in numbers. And while a handful of lions may feast on the carcass of a dead elephant, the number of bacteria, fungi, and other microscopic creatures number in the millions and tens of millions. We take them all for granted, but without them our planet would be overrun with dead things.
Change is like that too.
Sometimes change seems impossible. The task is simply too hard, or too big, or too expensive, and so change is left untried.
But small is powerful.
When great ships set sail from one continent to another, the most important person on the ship is the navigator. Over and over, history demonstrates that a tiny error in navigation, an error of one degree, or even a fraction of a degree, multiplied by a voyage of a hundred or a thousand miles, and the ship arrives far from its intended destination. In our era, as scientists consider how to protect our planet from potentially devastating, city-sized asteroids that may come our way in the future, the answer isn’t enormous rockets with powerful nuclear weapons, but early detection. If we can discover the danger early enough, small rockets, with tiny nudges, can redirect planet killing asteroids by a fraction, even hundredths, or thousandths of a degree and, over the course of millions of miles, the asteroid never even comes close to us.
As we approach the end of one year and the beginning of another, we often think of what we can do to make the next year better than the last. But change is intimidating. Our problems seem to be too big, too powerful, too expensive, or too difficult.
But remember the incredible power of the small.
Losing weight can seem impossible, but what about a pound a week? Even a half a pound per week means a loss of twenty-five pounds by this time next year. Drastic changes aren’t needed. A half a pound per week can be done, gradually, by eating just a little bit less and walking a little more each day and even then, you might have to work up to it a little at a time. Making big changes is hard, but don’t be afraid to make a little change today, and then a little more next month.
Saving for retirement sounds impossible. But don’t let the size of the goal scare you from starting small. Maybe you can’t afford to save hundreds of dollars a month. But can you, occasionally, give up your morning coffee? Or pack a lunch instead of going out to eat? Giving up a stop for a ($2.00) coffee, twenty days each month and banking that, produces almost $50,000 over thirty years at 7 percent interest. Packing your lunch two days each week and saving another $20 pushes that number to almost $150,000. That still won’t get you to a comfortable retirement, but one small change can motivate you to make another, and then another, and so on.
Growing our church and adding a hundred new members sounds impossible. But, like we saw in the previous examples, it’s our focus on the big things that often prevents us from seeing the power of the small things. No, we can’t plan a single event, or offer any kind of training that will allow us to instantly add a hundred people on Sunday morning. But, could you find the time to invite one person to have coffee with you this month? Could you join a new club, or commit to making one new friend in the next year? How hard would it be to do something nice for a neighbor or someone you know? Could you make some hot soup for a neighbor when they’re sick? There are thousands of ways that we can invest ourselves in the lives of the people around us.
But those small acts, done consistently, are incredibly powerful.
If each member of our church reaches just one person this year, we will touch the lives of more than a hundred people in deep and meaningful ways. And if only ten percent of those people choose to join our church, we will add ten new families.
Most likely, none of us will run for a national political office, or write a best-seller, or have millions of followers on social media. But just the same, we have the power to transform our church… even change the world.
We have at our disposal the incredible power of the small.
Make this year, a year of slow and steady progress.
We can change the world.
One cup of coffee at a time.
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