“Look at how large a fire can be kindled by just a small flame.” — James 3:5.
James is talking about the bad things that can be done by our tongues, and indeed he is right to do so. We normally regard physical damage as the more dangerous issue. We use the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s a good sentiment. It’s good to determine not to be hurt by words, but that’s very difficult to do. The fact is that words accomplish a great deal. Often we don’t realize just how much.
But the purpose of this entry is not to discuss words, except as an illustration of how seemingly small things can have a powerful impact. One or two words can change the whole nature of a conversation, a conference, a church service, or even a family’s evening at home. Those couple of words can change a political climate as well. I’m sure most of you will have experienced a time in a meeting or in a group of people where an entire discussion was going one way, but then a word, a sentence, or even the expression on someone’s face turned the tide. People often have a sort of herd reaction. If one person with a little bit of leadership starts the process, everybody else just follows the path of least resistance. One person going against the tide may find that many folks were uncomfortable with what was going on, but just didn’t say anything.
It seems to me that we could use this principle for good. We could have a whispering campaign of good, positive things rather than of gossip. We could all try to get one another to think more deeply about subjects, whether religion, politics, or social issues are involved, rather than just going along with the emotions of the moment.
This extends to financial issues and community involvement as well. People with only a little bit to contribute don’t feel that they are important or that they need to get involved. Let charity be done by big corporations and by rich people. But the combined effect of what supposedly unimportant people do can be massive.
Last night I was at a dinner meeting for my stepson John Webb’s Winter Golf Tournament. This is an event that was started originally to help our family deal with the costs of treatment for our son James who had cancer. By the time the first tournament came around, James was in his first remission, and the finances were no longer needed. The little group that started this idea raised a few hundred dollars that year, and since the medical bills were paid by that time, with James’s encouragement they passed the money on to the children. He understood what it was like being a child in chemotherapy, and so the child life program was chosen for the money, providing entertainment and fun for the children who have so little of it.
The next year the money moved into the thousands, and the year after that it moved to around ten thousand dollars. None of us are rich. Though John now has a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, he has only played a few innings at the major league level over the last couple of years, and minor league ball isn’t riches. (He’s headed to major league spring training.) None of the people who started this program are rich. But this year we’re beginning to get more celebrities actively involved. More teams are going to be here; in fact, we will probably have as many players as we can most optimistically accommodate. Look at what a big thing a very little start kindled! (Watch this blog space for a report on the success of this year’s tournament.)
One comment at our meeting last night was that there are a few rich people here in town who are very generous, but are constantly tapped for money for every project. As a result, we need to find more people to be involved. Those people are the ones who can give $10 or $15 or even less. Preachers complain about the dollar givers, those who place a dollar in the offering plate just so they don’t let it pass by with nothing. But may church budgets would be in serious trouble without those dollar givers.
The point of all of this is that whatever your abilities, whatever your goals, say something about them and do something about them. Your action may be small, but the results can surpass your wildest dreams.