By Amy Brandt, Franciscan Mission Service
The following reflection is a notable entry to our annual Volunteer Story & Photo Contest. Each year, we ask our member programs to submit stories and photos of their daily life to celebrate the experiences of faith-based service.
I’m a big picture kind of gal. I have dreams and I long to dive into them. My community members can attest to this, as I have tried to rope them into my dream of owning a lavender farm. This desire for bold action especially arises within me when I stand in front of injustices in our Church, our government, and our communities. I get easily discouraged by how little power I have. While a hippy commune on a lavender farm in Montana sounds like a decent solution to all this chaos, lately my big picture thinking has been challenged by a concept of “littleness”.
St. Francis of Assisi often reflected on the idea of littleness. He saw himself as a little brother to everyone else. His littleness had power because he opened his eyes and his heart to the little ways he could serve. While St. Francis could probably relate to the desire to ditch everything and live off the grid, he’s been teaching me something about being present and turning the “insignificant” tasks of daily life into acts of service.
When you think of a year of service, you probably think of someone working at a soup kitchen or volunteering at a hospital. My service position at Franciscan Mission Service was a little different. Instead of being on the “front lines” interacting directly with those our organization is supporting, I served as the Communications Associate, gaining a behind-the-scenes look at how a faith-based nonprofit organization operates. This often translated into spending the majority of my time in an office in front of a computer. While I could easily find purpose in my tasks, sometimes I felt unsure of how my little tasks played a role in the greater mission of our creator.
But I offered what I could; I offered myself.
Through daily invitations, I put my efforts, passions, and talents to work in little ways. I created images inspired by my reflections of the Gospel. I made birthday cards for former volunteers. I answered the phone and listened to people considering a year of service. I ate lunch with my fellow volunteers and shared what was on our minds. I helped coordinate our blog and online ministry, which serves as a platform for lay missioners and volunteers to share the impact of their global ministries. I walked to the Basilica everyday at 3pm and smiled at the security guard.
These tasks were small, but they held purpose. They often required all that my littleness had to offer. It’s amazing how the minor details of everyday life can be simultaneously exhausting and fulfilling.
“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything.” (Mark 12:44) We are called to simply acknowledge our littleness and trust that our investment in the little details has value.
It has become clear to me that Christ dwells in the details. Christ has whispered my name in the cold DC wind on the walk to work. Christ has sat joyfully at the dinner table where my community ate dinner together every night. Christ has delighted in the messiness of my artistic endeavors, like a proud parent delights in their child’s finger painting. Christ has marched with me on the National Mall at the March for Life and the Women’s March.
You can either see your “littleness” as an immobilizing quality, or a you can gratefully receive it with a humble heart. When the brokenness of our nation, our Church, our communities outshine the beauty of this world, I am invited to zoom out. To see just how small my role is. And then I zoom back in and see how much power my littleness has. When I actively choose to let love motivate these little actions, they can inspire other little actions rooted in love, and soon enough this ripple effect of a collective family striving for sanctity will make waves that will tackle seemingly untouchable injustices.