Hillary Ibarra reflects on the beautiful presence of God in every act of love, no matter how small, as she recalls the love shown to her by others.
One day while I was walking out of the grocery store, my unused coupons flew off in the stiff breeze, all over the street. I didn't think I could recover all those clippings, but just as that thought escaped me, another woman left her cart full of food and began to quickly collect them with me. I had seen her in the store, analyzing prices just as I do. She had an intricate tattoo on her chest, like a necklace, that was hard to miss.
"Oh, thank you so much," I said.
"I get it," she said. "I have five kids, and it's such a pain to clip coupons, but then I just saved over $40 in there."
"I have four kids," I told her.
As she helped me gather my slips of glossy paper and gave them to me kindly, I admired her. Not for her colorful tattoo. Not even for the fact that she was a fellow mother who was frugally raising five kids. I admired her heart, and I felt the love of God.
Well, that's just silly, some might say.
It was no great deed, but I believe that God is in every act of love, kindness, respect, and sacrifice we do for each other, whether we recognize His goodness behind it all or not.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-11)
Several years ago when my family was involved in a serious car accident, I felt God's love coming from the man who stopped and asked if I was okay as he dialed 9-1-1; from the firemen who spoke to my children in miraculously comforting tones; and in the consistent kindness of the doctors and nurses during my five days in the hospital. His love was streaming down my husband's face when I awoke from surgery. It was showered on my children, my husband, and me by the generous, loving presence and actions of our dear friends. God’s love and care was present in my mother-in-law when she flew out to be with her son and our children while I was in the hospital. I felt God's love in the many phone conversations with my parents -- its healing, sustaining, and teaching power present throughout as I relied on those who loved me.
When I was lacking in love after that accident, my Heavenly Father rescued me. I prayed for His help to be kind to my husband during my medicated angst and anguish. God responded instantly to my request with an image of my husband's face days earlier as he stood beside my gurney, weeping.
My confirmation saint, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, professed her way of following Jesus, calling it the Little Way. It was rooted in trust in God's merciful love and in showing love of God and others in her everyday actions, no matter how menial or small. It was not about great deeds but about great love.
I, too, feel like a spiritual child, not destined to perform great deeds for the kingdom of God as others are (though His guidance may surprise me) but to do all that I can with abundant love for others each day, even if it is in a passing compliment, a small sacrifice, a little smile, a cheerful greeting, or in listening intently when I’m itching to voice my own opinions. Mother Teresa said it so well: "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
Love cannot be overestimated, as I have learned so well through the example of love shown to me by others. In all its manifestations, great or small, it is the stuff of God.
During this pandemic, big or small acts of love have even more power to transform. A wave, a smile (even obscured by the mask we wear to protect our neighbor), an offer to share, or a few kind words as we pass six feet apart from our fellow human beings can do greater good than we could possibly know in that passing moment. And that moment of kindness? It will never be forgotten.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them (a scholar of the law) tested him by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." Matthew 22:34-40