Leaning against the brick wall of our hotel, the woman’s blonde hair was matted and her brown face weathered and worn. She barely raised her weary eyes to us as we passed by and mumbled, “Can you spare any change?” On her lap was a handwritten cardboard sign that said she had cancer.
My husband and I had just arrived for a much-needed getaway in the Gaslamp District of downtown San Diego. Downtown was a stark contrast of glistening luxury hotels and high-rise office buildings and rough, dirty transients roaming the streets with their bags of trash. Coming from our home in Venice Beach, we were used to it.
Morning and night the woman begged for change. At one point I turned to my husband and said, “I wonder if she lives in that spot?” Finally I felt the urge to put some change in her hand. What was leftovers for me amounted to survival for her. What was less for me was more to her.
It made me reflect how often what is less for us is more to God. So often what we see as insignificant is really significant to God. For example, the value of one person. Our society really values large quantities. Flash mobs. Super-sized drinks. Mega-churches. Mass appeal. Yet, over and over God has spoken to me of the value of each solitary person to Him. I especially think he notices the individuals who everyone else overlooks:
When I was young and the world was mine to conquer, I read a quote by Mother Teresa that has never left me. In many ways, it has been my mission statement:
“I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time – just one, one, one. So you begin. I began – I picked up one person. Maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person, I wouldn’t have picked up forty-two thousand….The same thing goes for you, the same thing in your family, the same thing in your church, your community. Just begin – one, one, one.”
So twenty-five years later I’ve realized in the end my whole life has added up to a group of “ones”. One elderly neighbor on oxygen who needs us to walk her dog. One frazzled mother of four who needs me to take her daughter for the night. One student who is little different because of his disabilities who needs a friend. From the outside it all seems insignificant. But each part creates a “body of work” that all adds up to… something significant. Pieces of a puzzle. Threads in a tapestry.
There’s the story of the widow who Jesus watched put her last two mites in the offering. The mites were the smallest Roman coin worth a fraction of a penny. Yet of her offering Jesus commented, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on” (Mark12:43-44). The widow seemed to understand what everyone else had missed: that quality was more than quantity. That less was more to God. It all adds up.
Author: Tamra Mariott