February 4, 2014
A Mere Tip of the Hat ~~ Martin B. Copenhaver
"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." Excerpt from Matthew 13:31-33
In his memoirs Oscar Wilde recalled the experience of being brought from the prison, where he was held after being declared—in the strange manner of his day — "guilty" of homosexuality. He writes: "When I was brought down from my prison between two policemen, a man I know waited in the long dreary corridor so that, before the whole crowd, whom an action so sweet and simple hushed into silence, he might gravely raise his hat to me as, handcuffed and with bowed head, I passed him by. Men have gone to heaven for smaller things than that."
After Episcopal Archbishop Desmond Tutu won a Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent struggle against apartheid in South Africa, he was asked to recall the formative experiences of his life. He replied, "One incident comes to mind immediately. When I was a young child I saw a man tip his hat to a black woman. Please understand that such a gesture is completely unheard of in my country. The white man was an Episcopal bishop and the black woman was my mother."
These two stories remind me that even a small, fragile gesture can take on grand dimensions when it is offered in love. Our own efforts may be small, but through them the largest of all realities — the love of God — can be communicated. A mere tip of the hat can offer hope and change a life.
Prayer: God, remind me not to neglect the small acts of compassion so that you, in turn, might fill them with your great love. Amen.
From the United Church of Christ daily devotional, Feed Your Spirit.