Starting Small


She sits on the floor, carefully placing socks, toothbrushes and snacks into bags. Her eyes shine with excitement as she creates little care packages. My eyes shine with unshed tears. She humbles me, this little one who is growing up too fast. She humbles me and convicts me and reminds me that we can do better.

We must do better.

It started a few years ago when she was just five-years old. It was a rainy afternoon and she was snuggled up against me as I scrolled through social media. Her sisters, four months old and three-years old at the time, were sleeping or playing. Days tend to roll into each other when you have little ones, so the details are hazy. What I do remember clearly is my little girl’s reaction as I scrolled past a Facebook post showing bare shelves at a local food bank.

“Why is that fridge empty?” she asked.

What followed was a lengthy discussion about homelessness, poverty and food banks. It was not something that, in her five years on this earth, she had ever really encountered before. And it struck deep in her heart place.

“We’ll get Daddy to stop at the grocery store on his way home,” I reassured her. “Or should we go now?” I said the words slowly, hesitantly.

“Mommy, they need food! We need to go now!”

With three children ages five and under, how would I navigate the grocery store? What if, despite the warm temperatures, the baby caught cold in the rain? I could think of a million reasons why this was a terrible idea, but my daughter was insistent.

What would I be teaching her if I ignored an immediate need simply because meeting it was inconvenient?

By the time we got to the checkout, the rain was coming down in sheets. I had the littlest one strapped to my chest and did my best to hang onto our bags and the other two kids as we ran through the parking lot to the van. We were soaked and dripping, but my oldest daughter was ecstatic. She was making a difference—helping someone—and it gave her joy.

A burden for the poor and the downtrodden began to grow in her little heart that day. She began to pray for the homeless almost daily.

It should have been a no-brainer at that point—to take my daughter’s enthusiasm and run with it—but what followed was a battle. What do you want me to do, Lord? I wondered. Perhaps volunteer at the food bank together? But what if that’s not Your will for us? In retrospect, this is utterly ridiculous. But I’ve wasted far too much time paralyzed by fear—fear of circumstances, fear of people.

Mostly, fear of doing the wrong thing and disappointing God.

It has taken a long time to realise that His love for me isn’t shaken by my failures.

In his book You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, Francis Chan says, “Sometimes people … are so afraid that they might do the wrong thing that they do nothing. We need to err on the side of action, because we tend to default to negligence. So many won’t do anything unless they hear a voice from heaven telling them precisely what to do. Why not default to action until you hear a voice from heaven telling you to wait?” (p. 16).

I’m guilty of defaulting to negligence. It’s not just fear; it’s complacency too.  We ended up volunteering at a food bank until the youngest began to toddle around, but then we stopped. I’ve never really been sure what to do or how to help effectively. I get caught up in homeschooling, church activities, carting the kids to their extra-curriculars, going out with friends and family, and just life.

Activities aren’t bad in and of themselves, but we must always remember that there’s a higher purpose overarching all of it.

We sit on the living room floor, my daughter and me. This girl is a gift. She challenges me to look beyond myself.

“Bibles,” she says. “We need to give them Bibles. They need to know Jesus.” Carefully, she places a small Bible in each bag. So Loved is emblazoned across the cover.

We’ve only given out a handful of her care packages to the homeless, and it seems so insignificant—the tiniest of ripples in a vast ocean of need. But it’s something.

It’s a place to start.

The Bible says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV).

“Why are these packages so important to you?” I ask my daughter. I’m curious to hear her perspective.

“Because it lets people know that we care about them,” my daughter responds. “You know the Bible verse that says, ‘Love one another’? We need to love everybody.”

We’re taught to dream big and do big. To make our lives count. To be world changers and planet shakers. These are wonderful things, but what if, in aiming to make a big difference, we forget that the big things are always just a compilation of a series of smaller actions?

What if living out our love for Jesus is as simple as looking around for an immediate need and then doing our best to meet it?


Disclosure: As an affiliate of the Christianbook Group, some of the links on this blog are affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

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