The prophet Jesus said the realm of God can be likened to a mustard seed, which is very small and yet, when it grows it puts forth large branches for birds to make nests and animals to find shade (Mark 4:30). He was not alone in this wisdom that goodness, beauty, and even grace is derived from the accumulation of small actions growing inconspicuously.
A saying of the Buddha is similar: “Do not underestimate good, thinking it will not affect you. Dripping water can fill a pitcher, drop by drop; one who is wise is filled with good, even if one accumulates it little by little.” (Dhammapada 9.7).
The Hebrew prophet Ezekiel employed a similar metaphor using a small sprig of cedar instead of a mustard seed (17:22) to describe the paradox of something of great consequence beginning from something infinitesimal.
Lastly, the prophet Mohammad used the mustard seed to echo this notion and did so in the context of describing how delicately and precisely Allah measures even the tiniest act of good or bad (Qur’an 99.6-8).
Load this metaphor into the Hubble telescope and it comes out with a 21stcentury punchline like this: From the teeniest, tiniest speck of a molecule comes the ferocious explosion of far-flung fiery asteroids, countless spinning orbs, and clusters of life in untold trillions – the Cosmos itself.
I mention this because we so easily lose perspective in our daily grind. Not only do we forget to stop and smell the roses, we also neglect to pause and consider the implications of even our smallest actions, or as the case may be, inactions. Most of us will never have the opportunity to accomplish big, fat heroic feats on the magnitude of a Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mother Theresa that end up making a huge difference on the stage of history. On the other hand, both of those individuals began with making small acts of goodness, unseen and inconsequential at the moment they were done.
Our small pebbles of inaction also pile up, and like silt in a river, clog the arteries of our compassion and empathy. When we remain silent as abuse and injustice darken the world around us, it is as spiritually bankrupting as if we were a bystander to some act of cruelty yet did nothing to try and stop it – or short of that, did not go to the aid of the victims in its aftermath. Inaction or silence in the face of cruelty is comparable to personally perpetrating such acts. Violence, abusiveness, and just plain nastiness is also accumulative, and often inconspicuous like the mustard seed growing toward a take-over of the garden.
Familias Unidas No Divididas! Families Belong Together. Speak out now, against our cruelty and inhumane governmental actions at our borders. To remain silent is to be a perpetrator of the cruelty. In addition to writing your representative, go to families.belong.org and find an event near you to raise your voice.
Our actions and inactions, small and inconspicuous though they may be at the time, accumulate and grow. Added to all the others around us who also lead routine lives, they may become quite powerful for good or ill.