Small Acts
written by Rev Gary Heard

I recently discovered this wonderful little story from Africa. The villagers in a poor area decided to build a hospital but really had no money so a small boy decided he would do something. The only things he had were some pens. So he started to knock on doors asking people to buy a pen to support the building project. A lady said to him, "But that's too big a challenge for you!" Then the boy smiled and said, "Oh, but I am not alone! My smaller brother is selling pens on the other side of the street.!"

What drives a person to undertake such a massive project through little steps which seem ridiculous in the face of the challenge ahead?

Moses walked into the corridors of power in Egypt and made a simple, yet loaded request, “Let my people go!.”

David brought his brothers’ lunch to war and declares, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Isaiah declared in the midst of a people blinded by grief that he saw God.

One centurion said to Jesus, “speak a word, and my servant will be healed.”

So many small deeds have been the foundation of great works.

In our large cosmopolitan cities, we are often overcome by the complexities of the challenges we face, and the relative anonymity of our own voice. What can we do in the face of such injustices?

How can we change the world to better reflect the values of God’s kingdom?

Today is the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht (The Night of the Broken Glass), when Jewish communities in Austria and Germany were ravaged by Nazis. In two days 91 were murdered, 30000 taken into internment camps, synagogues, homes and businesses were looted and destroyed. Very few stood to voice any protest. William Cowper, a 77-year-old Aboriginal man lead a delegation of Aboriginal people who walked from his Footscray home to the German Consulate near Albert Park to convey a resolution of the Australian Aborigines’ League condemning the persecution of Jews and Christians in Germany. In the face of such atrocity, he would not remain silent, even though entirely powerless in the situation (the delegation was refused admittance to see the ambassador) and remote from it.

Selling pens to build a hospital might seem to be an act of futility, but it is founded in faith and hope, and is born of love – the power which moves this young boy to believe that his small contribution can make a difference.

Mother Teresa, William Wilberforce, William Carey, Florence Nightingale… these are names which began with acts of futility; acts which were grounded in faith and hope, and empowered by love.

Long may we have such courage to act, regardless of the likelihood of success, but in the belief that we must act, knowing that silence is complicity in the status quo.


November 9, 2008
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