Those of us who watch the news daily have had more than our fill of the devastation in Ferguson, Missouri. The sight of flames from torched police cruisers vivid against the night sky, and businesses being looted and destroyed at will — such sights leave us feeling sick at heart and helpless.
Owners and employees of the devastated businesses have won less camera time than the rioters, even though their losses are enormous and arguably more than half the story. Their future appears bleak, their hope tested. So, in the aftermath, where is there something good to balance the anger and criminality and chaos?
There’s Terrence Williams. He’s a 23-year-old African-American native of St. Louis who aspires to become a police officer. A cameraman caught him walking the forsaken streets of Ferguson carrying a plastic bag and picking up debris left after the nights of destruction. He was doing what little he could to help the recovery. His picture went viral on the internet.
Here’s a link to get more detail.
Often in times of crisis we are passive because there’s nothing we can do big enough to appear to matter. But Terrence Williams demonstrates that if one can’t do a lot one can do a little, and a little can help more than one might expect. His action contributed fractionally to the cleanup, but his example likely fanned hope and we believe encouraged others to respond nobly as he did.
In crises, do the little things we do really matter? Consider a story from the Acts of the Apostles. In a place called Lydda, Simon Peter healed a paralyzed man in the name of Christ. Getting him up off his pallet was certainly dramatic (Acts 9:32-35). As a result “many people of the area turned to the Lord.”
Then Peter was called to Joppa nearby because a disciple named Dorcas had died. Peter entered the room where her body had been washed and prepared for burial. After kneeling to pray, he called her forth from the dead and by God’s power, she responded. Another mighty event.
But tucked into the center of the account is this line: “All the widows stood around him, crying and showing the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.” (Acts 9:39) Dorcas had not achieved fame, but she had done practical, down-to-earth things for widows.
And her small acts of kindness were considered important enough to be placed alongside the account of Peter, who by the power of God, raised the dead. Her seemingly inconsequential and mundane deeds were bigger than she knew.
Here’s one version of a poem that fits, written by Edward E Hale: I am only one, but I am one. / I can’t do everything, but I can do something. / What I can do I ought to do; / and what I ought to do, by God’s grace I will do.
Imagine if Christians everywhere were to embrace the example of Terrence Williams, Dorcas, and Edward Hale in the name of Christ!
Photo credit: Ryan J. Reilly