A piece of chalk, a bit of thread, a handful of seeds, a night time prayer and a hug... it’s the little things.
One elderly man sits on the porch in a rickety old chair and stares out into the blackness of a moonless, summer night. Stars twinkle in the infinite distance and he fixates on one for no particular reason.
He can hear his own heart beating and is more than a little amazed at its faithfulness. His stomach grumbles and he lets out a deep sigh. He has forgotten to eat again.
It is an occurrence that is more common than it should be. This day, like many before it, was a day he spent alone. The house behind him is filled with many things, but with him outside, it’s void of life.
There’s a mantle in the house behind him. It sits empty. The walls throughout the house echo the same sad fact as the mantle. He is as utterly alone in his memories as he is on this summer night.
It’s times like this that he regrets not ever getting married; not having any children. It’s times like this when the loneliness is nearly overwhelming. It’s why he forgets to eat.
He was raised by a cynical and single uncle after his parents died in a fiery crash when he was only five years old. His uncle had taught him how to work hard. Taught him how to save. Taught him not to trust. Taught him to put himself first. Climb the ladder and climb it fast, regardless of whose fingers you step on in the process. And it had worked. He had become very successful at a very young age. He had many things and a very large retirement portfolio. But now he is alone with his many things.
He pushes himself to his feet and turns toward the house. Time to make something to eat. At least its something to do. It’s the little things.
Across the street another man in his latter years looks out the window as he walks on a treadmill. He shakes his head as he watches his neighbor get up and go into his house. He has been watching him for some time and is filled with a mix of thankfulness and regret. Thankfulness that he is not alone like his neighbor. Regret that he has been unable to figure out a way to help the bitter, old man.
Behind him he hears the clatter of dishes and his mouth waters as the smell of dinner cooking fills the room. It’s been a busy day and they are eating late. Tomorrow he will walk a 5K with his granddaughter and then there will be a barbecue at his son’s home.
His eyes move from the neighbor’s porch to the desk in front of the window and refocus on the display of family photos there. He scans them from left to right and smiles at the memories that are reflected behind the glass of each photo. There are weddings. New babies. Camping trips and vacations. The 69 Camaro he helped his son build. His daughter’s graduation.
He hears his wife call out that dinner’s ready and smiles at the familiar sound. It’s the little things. He looks once again across the street. He sees a light come on in the kitchen there and imagines his neighbor opening a can of cold peaches in an empty and quiet kitchen. His eyes moisten with tears of compassion and he ponders asking the lonely, old man to join them for dinner. Not that he would say “yes” this time when he has said “no” so many times before, but it might be worth a try.
He pushes the power button on the treadmill and wipes sweat from his forehead with a towel as he thinks about all the times he has tried to befriend his neighbor. He has known him for many years and knew his uncle as well when he was growing up. He thinks about his own family and the one that isn’t there across the street. The one that has never been there across the street. Yep, his uncle fed him and gave him a place to live. He taught him many things, but he didn’t teach him how to love. He didn’t teach him to appreciate what really matters in life. Didn’t teach him about balance. It’s the little things that all add up to a happy life. The sum total of it all. It’s the little things.
Thousands of miles away in a humble dormitory in Liberia, Peterson Lamie lies in his bunk and thinks about his fish. The other boys in the room are already asleep and he can hear their soft snores. He should be asleep too, but he has a lot on his mind. Peterson is the designated manager of the fish ponds and he takes his responsibility seriously. There have been times when things haven’t gone well, but all in all the ponds are success. He feels a sense of pride and accomplishment for doing his part to make the lives of his stitched together family a little better. He prays silently in the still, night air and thanks God for the roof over his head; for the love of the Director and the caregivers, for the sponsors thousands of miles away. He thanks God for his food, for his home, for his Bible and school. He thanks God for all the little things that make his life whole because he knows what might have been.
Peterson’s father died just shortly before he was born. His mother struggled to care for him and the both of them suffered from hunger and illness. He knows that without Safe Home, his chances of survival would have been greatly diminished. Beyond that, he would have never had an education. He would have never been given the opportunity to learn about God. Certainly, he would have never learned how to grow gardens, raise pigs and chickens, and yes, even how to build and manage a fish pond. Perhaps he would have found a way to survive, but he would have never thrived.
On this same night, there are children in Uganda who go to bed and dream about the gardens they are growing. There are children who go to sleep smiling because they learned how to make chalk, how to sew, how to bake, how to repair shoes and make clothing. In India, a young girl dreams about solar energy and how it could help her energy-starved country. In Russia children rest from a hot day of caring for the animals they raise, animals that will not only feed them, but the poor in the local community.
Each of us is born with a mind, a body and a soul. All three elements are inseparable in life and together are what makes us a whole person. If any single element is suffering, we are not in balance. We are not whole persons.
What you are giving these children with your gifts of love is a gift beyond measure. These are children whose whole being suffered, mind, body and soul. You are not just helping them survive. You are helping them to thrive.
In return, they give you one more reason to smile as you go to sleep tonight. They give you one more reason to thank God for the blessings in your life. Things tend to come full circle and as they do, the orphan children we are caring for become some of “the little things” that make our own lives complete.