Sunday, April 01, 2007

Little Things

Many of us, at one time or another, have been fascinated by little things. I guess that's reasonable, since we start out life as "little things." One of my favorite fairy tales as a child was the story of Thumbelina. Ah, a girlfriend that I could carry in my pocket!!

For much of my life, I was small. When I was a freshman in high school, I was a 114 pound wrestler. By the time that I was a senior, I was a 135 pound football player. Who would have guessed that I would one day grow up to weigh 180-190 pounds. I wish I would have had some of that weight when I played football. Now I dream of being small (smaller) again. I still get a chuckle when I remember Rachael Leigh-Cook saying, "I'm not small, I'm space-efficient."

Little things have a vital role in our lives. Often, though, their importance escapes our notice, and we fail to value them the way that we should. When I was a bus driver in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I learned an important lesson, one that I don't think I will ever forget.

As I drove my bus route, I often saw a handsome man standing by the side of the road on the edge of the cemetery grounds. Every morning he could found standing, staring at the cars and their drivers as they passed by. He would usually be dressed in Bermuda shorts, a nice casual shirt and tennis shoes. This gentleman was about 6' 4" tall, so you wouldn't drive by without noticing him. Even though he was attractive, it was obvious that he had probably suffered brain damage at some time in his life. Perhaps that was why he was so interested in watching the traffic.

Now, in Arkansas many people have the habit (a nice one, I think) of waving at each other as they pass in their cars and trucks. It doesn't matter that they are strangers and that you will probably never get acquainted, it is still customary to lift your hand or fingers as an expression of common courtesy.

For a time, I had a little 3 year old boy sitting behind my driver's seat. He watched everything that I did, often imitating my gestures or speech. One day, I met a local policeman on the road and I waved. My little friend then asked me, "Stormy, did that cop 'Hi' you?" "Yes, he did," I replied. He thought for a moment and then he said, "Well, he didn't 'Hi' me." He was a little disappointed.

The gentleman at the cemetery intrigued me. I wondered what his life was like, and what had caused his mental impairment. I wondered if he had anyone to love him and talk to him and go places with him. So, one day I waved, but he didn't "Hi" back. The next day and the next day I did the same, but still no response. Every day, I waved, and when I did, he would watch my bus as I drove two blocks to the corner and turned out of his sight. This went on for two, then three months. He never waved. I decided that he probably never would.

One day, I said to myself that this would be that last time that I waved at him. When I drove by and he saw my cowboy hat, he raised his hand pocket high. For several days, that was all that he did. Eventually, his hand went shoulder high. Not long after that, I was greeted with a hand-wave that reached over his head. My new "friend" began to be exuberant. When he saw me coming, he would smile and wave like there was no tomorrow.

This gentleman taught me that there is value and importance in the little things that we do. Sometimes, the gestures of kindness and attention and recognition are all that is needed to brighten some one's world.

Our church song leader learned that I had been depressed. He told me later that he didn't know what to say to me. At the time, what he did do was probably more important than what he might have said. Each Sunday, as he walked down the aisle to lead singing, he was squeeze or pat my shoulder as he passed by my pew. It was nothing remarkable. Just a "little thing," you might say, but he let me know that he cared, and that was enough for me.

Jesus once said to His apostles, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward (Matthew 10:42)." A reward from God for an act as small as a cup of water? That's amazing, isn't it? Jesus teaches us that all of the little things that we do for others are noticed by the Lord. Even something as "insignificant" as a hand wave.

I know that sometimes those of you who love someone who is depressed feel helpless. You seem unable to aid this person who is important to you. Today, I'm asking you to remember the lesson of the man in Hot Springs and the words of Jesus. Maybe, all we really need is for someone to bless us with a little thing.

This week, brighten some one's life with something small. Like a "Hi" or a smile or a pat or a cup of cold water. It will be greatly valued by those who are depressed and by the Lord who sees all that we do for others.

"Little things that you do let me know your love is true." (song by Bobby Goldsboro)

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]


Neva said...

It is usually the little things that make the biggest impact. You are so right.
Thank you
Still praying

rebecca said...

Dear Mr. Ward,

Thank you for sharing a profound recollection of your experience with the waving convert in Hot Springs. Last week, I told a group of 35 visiting travel journalists the people of Hot Springs are our greatest resource.

Recently geographer Warren Bland named Hot Springs, Ark. the No. 1 place in America to retire.

I gotta admit, Hot Springs is a pretty cool place to live, even for those of us who aren't yet retired.

Rebecca McCormick,
Feature and Copy writer, Hot Springs Life & Home