Someone once asked Mother Teresa, how is it that you can do so many great things? Her reply was, “Idon’t do great things, I do small things with great love.”
When I was a child I dreamed of all of the great things that I would do in my life. In grade school I imagined being the kid who pulled the school bus to a safe stop when the bus driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, or perhaps I would win the state wide spelling
In middle school I was certain I would get a
standing ovation for my performance in our school play, “The Me Nobody Knows”.
In high school I was positive I would be a famous model, dancer, movie star, or folk singer,but…. None of these things ever
happened to me.
I went on as we all do, one day at a time, but still holding out hope that one day some great accomplishment would set me a part from the rest of the world.
In my 20’s I went to nursing school because
didn’t feel that I was smart enough to be a doctor and after a few years of waiting tables I needed a steadyjob and so it seemed a wise and reasonable choice.
After graduating I met and married my children’s father who was a doctor, and so I became a house wife with two small children.
To some it may have seemed that I “had it all”. All my life I kept making what
everyone else felt were reasonable and responsible choices, but inside there was still some small part of me that felt undone.
After my divorce I was forced to go back to work. I would have loved to be an ER nurse who saved the lives of many or the OB nurse who was just in time to catch the baby when the doctor was a few minutes too late, but because I was now a single parent the hours
did not suite my children’s schedule so I once again did the reasonable thing, and became an elementary school nurse.
Now in my 40’s I became aware of the notion that I was to young to be old and to old to be young! All of these years later and I had still done nothing truly great in my life!!! I was growing older and as the weeks, months, and years passed, I started to loose hope. I began to feel that I was never going to do anything great and the mere fact of my existence
didn’t even deserve the smallest footnote in anyone’s memory.
Day after day as a school nurse, I would repeat my mundane tasks of holding the hand of a crying child who had fallen on the playground or pressing a cold rag to their head when they were vomiting. I would ease their breathing with their medications, calm
their fears about frightning current events, and
discuss scary new medical diagnosis and upcoming surgeries. There always seemed to be a steady stream of students in my office with endless questions which even included the thoughtful theology of, “where does one bury the shrimp after they die from the science
experiment this week, and do the go to heaven?”.
Somehow, I had finally come to a place of accepting that I would never do great things in my life when out of nowhere events would unfold that would change how I felt about myself and my place in the world forever.
For no reason in particular, I had waked up early one morning. After tossing and turning for 30 minutes I gave up the fight to go back to sleep and decided to go on into work to catch up on my paperwork. As I got closer to my school, I realized that I had even more
time than I thought and so I decided to take the scenic route through the surrounding neighborhood.
As I was driving, I notice some of my students on the street corner just ahead waiting for their bus. I slowed and looked over at them shivering in the cold and remembered back to my own childhood, and of how I had felt at times the bus would never come.
All at once, one of the children spotted me and they began waving and shouting, “hey,there goes our nurse!!!” Like domino’s their voices started a chain reaction and as I drove forward, block after block,
each group of waiting children waved and cheered for me.
As I waved back at them I suddenly remembered the words of Mother Teresa and I realized that she was indeed right.
All of the small things that I had done to make life a little more comforting for these children hadn’t been for nothing at all. It was the small things done with great love that were the greates achievements of my life and the greatest gifts that I had to give to the world.
In the end, it wasn’t my calling to be a movie star or a famous dancer, a folk singer, or the girl who stopped the bus full of children from crashing. I believe that for me, it is my ability to do small things with great love that make me great, and if in some small way I have been of any comfort in the life
of a child, then, I have indeed accomplished great things in my life.
Small things with great love….in this I
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.