In Praise of Little Things (and Raising Little Ones)

Posted on June 27, 2024 in: General News

In Praise of Little Things (and Raising Little Ones)


How easy it is to fall into a rhythm of just doing things to do the things. That doing A simply gets you to B. Something goes your way. Something doesn’t. You get out of something. You have to do something extra. This benefits me. This doesn’t. But in all these things God offers something of himself, an opportunity for his grace that goes beyond the mere event or demand of the moment. There is always the choice to throw the moment away or add it to the richness of my life.

St. Augustine understood this, reflecting on the Gospel of Luke, “What is a little thing, is (just) a little thing. But to be faithful in a little thing is a great thing.” The genius of this perspective is that it opens one up to the richness of life in everything, as life is comprised primarily of little things. Consider the alternative: waiting and agonizing or scheming for those big moments to come, wondering how to rid ourselves of the time in between, trying to fast forward through the static. In all that are little treasures, another brick to build that house with a firm foundation.

Those bricks are the moments of our day to redeem through faith and unify into our house; or to toss aside, just a random brick sitting alone. In them are opportunities for acts of obedience. A small task at work I could shrug off or do and grow in integrity. Those little chances for charity. To help a neighbor unload a bulky piece of furniture from her car instead of pretending like I don’t see her and ducking into the garage. Acts of affection to embrace my children. The choice to ignore whatever trade rumors for whatever sports league seem so urgent and to toss the phone aside and play cars with my son. Those little moments become much more when I allow for that little nudge of the Holy Spirit. I say yes and Christ redeems the time, making his Presence known in whatever I’m doing.

These moments add up. The sum of the whole that individually can easily be shrugged off and forgotten about, but together can make one rich or apart can make one destitute. In The Writing Life, celebrated author and observer of the sacred in little things, Annie Dilliard notes, “How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing.” As a father of 4 very little ones, I spend time in prayer, hope, worry, anxiety, excitement, and all the rest about their future. How do I help them stay faithful in what seems like an increasingly hostile world? Find their vocation? Learn to live a good life? Want to go to church? Make sure they know I loved them dearly? Even pass on these things to their own children one day? But what does helping them on the path to those places look like (besides recognizing that they are not ultimately in my control)?

In large part, I help by staying dedicated to faithful moments as I live life with my children. Taking 30 minutes to rake some leaves into a big pile and jump in with them. 20 minutes to share some stories of my favorite saints with them, and another 10 to hear about some of theirs. Committing to 5 minutes of choppy, distracted prayer before bedtime when they’re little. 60 minutes wrangling them from under the pews at Mass and 2 minutes to explain to them why I am so in awe of receiving our Lord in the Eucharist each week (and what it tastes like as they are wont to know). A few minutes for a timeout and 1 minute to reaffirm that I still love them (while I wonder if a timeout even does anything at all–but what’s an exhausted parent to do?).

I trust that the dynamic of the law in Luke 16 is applicable to raising children: “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones” (v10). I hope that the more faithful I am to those little things, those little moments, those little bricks that make up my home, my life; I hope that in those things that my children are so intertwined in right now, they come to see the larger proposal of the goodness of life lived through the Catholic faith. I hope they can see that my role as husband and father is cherished, my marriage is happy, and my work in Catholic schools is satisfying and meaningful. That even the little moments in “fixing” things around the house, playing games that only we know the rules to, visiting and laughing with friends, and bringing home some ice cream on a random Tuesday night are all surrounded by whispers of the Holy Spirit, maybe missed in the moment been seen brightly in retrospect.

If we neglect the little things, we neglect everything. The big things (marriage, careers, friendships, children) are made of the little things (an unnoticed good deed, a phone call with a friend, sharing a compliment just because). Modern spiritual master and Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, boldly states in Thoughts in Solitude, “A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.” I want my moments, all those little things, to reach down deep enough that I am aware Christ is present. For those moments to be faithful moments. To become bricks that overcome the imperfections enough to bound together and build a home in which the Holy Spirit can find space to dwell.

Bryce Crandall has been in Catholic education for nearly 15 years as a Theology teacher, counselor, coach, and school administrator. He has been published in The Catechetical Review and Solid Food Press Literary Journal. He currently resides in Northern California with his wife and four young children, who are teaching him how to dance