The Power of the Little Things


By Rev. Dr. Susan Smith


We often do not understand how it is “the little things” that make the biggest impact on the lives of people around us. Those “little things” can be positive or negative; words, gestures, attitudes, body language …all of them count. That we do not appreciate their power is unfortunate.


I heard a story on NPR about someone doing something seemingly “little” that absolutely impacted the life of her son. Sylvia Bullock was a minister, raising a son on her own. He was a kid, doing what kids do, and when he was 15, he stole a car. Though it was his first offense, he was tried as an adult and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.


He was afraid, of course, and so was his mother. He had heard the horror stories of what prison was like, and he concentrated on surviving. His mother wanted him to survive as well – but she also wanted him to know that no matter what, she loved him.


So, while he concentrated on surviving, she concentrated on staying connected. The loss of her son to “the system” ate at her and she grew depressed. She says she stopped cooking dinner, something she had always done and had loved doing. Nothing really mattered anymore – except staying connecting with her son and making the connection stronger than it had ever been.


So, she took to being a mother in a different way. She wrote her son letters, consistently, for the entire time he was in prison. He says “the letters were everything,” and he looked forward to them. In these 8-9 page missives, he said she “bared her soul to him.” For her, the writing was a way to honor her intention to stay connected.


She also called the prison wardens- regularly – to check on her son. She wanted them to know that he had a mama who cared, and that they should be careful, as he was a child in an adult setting. She called the wardens to check on her son!


When her son was released from prison, Sylvia Bullock – Rev. Sylvia Bullock was there. She had been a minister in the way that counts most – by doing “the little things” for her biggest blessing, her son. Her embarrassment at having a son incarcerated was sent to the back of the bus. If anyone was going to save her child, it would be her, with the help of God. She wrote letters. She called the wardens, and she never lost hope or confidence in her son.


Her son has begun a business that makes it easier for families and inmates to communicate; his mother is the chief operating officer. He is being all that she knew he was, and more. She was not about to let a system dictate to her son who he was; it was through doing “the little things” that she communicated love, compassion and the realness of God.


The story made me think about what “little things” I am doing or not doing for others – and it also made me do inventory on “little things” I may or may not be doing that affect others negatively. It seems so easy to concentrate on the things that God has put in us that make us who we are and which make us special to God and to others. God has made no mistakes, and even if nobody ever tells us that, it is something we should know. Sylvia Bullock knew it. She knew she was not a mistake and she sure knew her son was not a mistake. She knew that what he had done was not the definition of who he was. She knew that the love communicated by her through the doing of “the little things” like writing letters and calling the warden would let her son know that in this world, he mattered and he had worth. She refused to let “the big thing,” i.e., “the system,” take her son and shred his spirit to bits.


It is “the little things” that we have and that we can share which can change us, first, and change our environment and our world. It is “the little things” which can make the “crooked places straight and the rough places smooth.” It is “the little things” that make God smile, because as we identify what is in us that makes us able to share our own “little things,” we begin to know ourselves as God knew us at the moment of our conception. It is “the little things” that will make this world what God wants it to be.


Amen and amen.

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