About Ferguson and Little Things

B3TPpPmIAAAHNEVThose 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

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2 thoughts on “About Ferguson and Little Things

  1. Terrence Williams is a leader by example,the best kind of leader.He is an embodiment of the spirit behind Francis of Assisi’s prayer ‘’Where there is hate let me sow love’’By serving others ,his community the city of Ferguson in Missouri, Terrence Williams serves God by being a faithful steward of His grace.

    ‘’Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms’’ 1 Peter 4:10.NIV

    If Terrence William’s step is a little step ,it sure has proved a giant step on social media and inspired influenced thousands upon thousands of human hearts.This is a positive example of the good that can come out of social media and the internet .It shows how the internet can be a good thing ,just as ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ shows how a dedicated Pastor can preach online and his message be received instantly across oceans.

    I like the idea that even the smallest step can have great positive consequences.We know huge things have great consequences.

    So when Jesus raised Lazarus .brother of Mary and Martha,enormous consequences followed.At last ,many believed in Jesus.So many came to believe in Jesus that the chief priests even considered having Lazarus put to death to stop belief in Jesus spreading.

    Perhaps Lazarus’s raising was the greatest Christian sign.It certainly must have been one of the main reasons such great crowds sought to see and be near Jesus on Palm Sunday. For most people the raising of Lazarus must have surely been conclusive proof of Jesus’s divinity.For Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, maybe it statled them so much it made them seek Jesus’s crucifixion.What were they thinking ?

    Such great events as the raising of Lazarus have monumental effects that change the world.Yet seemingly tiny things too can touch peoples hearts and tiny ripples grow into great waves.

    So Dorcas’s own tenderheartedness in clothing the widows,is not dwarfed by the great wonder of Peter’s raising of Dorcas.So Terrence Williams simple good act ripples through the ether of the internet to become a great wave , upon which net users surf.Terence Williams good act ‘went viral ‘ in modern internet parlance.

    There are many ways to serve God,both great and small.In one of my favourite poems ,it’s suggested that we even srve Him by standing in patient humility before our God,waiting upon His call and bearing His mild yoke with patient obedience .It’s a shame to break up so perfect a sonnet, so I quote John Milton’s poem in full.

    On His Blindness

    When I consider how my light is spent
    Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent which is death to hide
    Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, lest he returning chide,
    “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
    I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
    That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
    Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
    Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
    Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
    And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
    They also serve who only stand and wait.” John Milton ,c. 1652 -1655

    We can’t do everything ,but we can do something ,even if it be simply to bear with patience what life brings us,trusting to God.By God’s grace Terrence Williams did what his heart told him he ought to do,in the name of Christ and to the glory of God.He is an inspiration to all practising Christians.

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