By Dalton Roberts

In his marvelous memoir Off to the Side, Jim Harrison writes, "We Americans are taught to think big, talk big, act big, love big, admire bigness but the essential mystery is in the small."

I have found this statement to be true in my own life. The big things that have happened have no more beauty to me than the smallest. Some things thought to be small and insignificant sparkle as brightly in my memory sky as the moon and sun things.

Starting with the small community where I grew up. I learned as much from the working people who lived at Watering Trough as I did from the Ph D's in college. The love and trust of an old semi-illiterate Baptist preacher who milked the cows down the road at Sterchia's Dairy barn reeled me in from pointless teenage rebellion as effectively as any psychiatrist could have done. He is one of my all-time heroes.

Jesus was a small things man. He took the most motley and insignificant men he came across and molded them into a mighty band of world-changers. He spoke often of tiny things as important, things like mustard seeds, sparrows and lilies.

I know something about big jobs and little jobs. The people honored me by election to the highest elected post in this county. I deeply appreciate it but I worked as hard for them when I was a school social worker trying to pull children out of the jaws of unimaginable misery and poverty. Furthermore, I loved it just as much. I was as happy teaching a retarded child to read as sitting with the richest man in town working on big impressive projects.

I was chairman of the Southeast Tennessee Development board for the last seven years I was in office. One day when I was late for a meeting the vice-chairmen told me when I arrived, “We have been talking about the upcoming congressional election and we unanimously agreed to support you if you will run. This group was about half Democrats and half Republicans so their influence would have been something else.

Why did I not seek that office? Because I thought the time had come to use some of my other talents. If you have ever taken a guitar into a nursing home and seen the weary face of an old man or woman light up when you played a song that took their heart home or back into the arms of some precious lover from their past, you know that is as important as anything on this earth.

My mother knew the importance of small things. I spent a Sunday studying an anthill, breaking up little balls of bread and watching them carry it into their home. Monday morning I fussed about going to school and said I wasn't through studying the ants. She said, "That's as important as anything they might teach at school today so stay home and do that."

Sigurd Olson saw the glory in small things when he wrote, "If I knew all there is to know about a golden arctic poppy growing on a rocky ledge in the Far North, I would know the whole story of evolution and creation." Sometimes when the false values of this world are trying to sweep me up into the "bigness mindset", I stop and say to myself, "golden arctic poppy" or "anthill" (in honor of my dear mother) and realize that all of creation is one holy quilt of equally important interlocking relationships.

The only way any of life can mean anything to you is for all of it to mean something to you. If any piece of it were not important, it would not be here.

When it comes to seeing the glory of things thought to be small by this world, Jesus hit the nail on the head when he said, "Inasmuch as you do it to the least, you do it to me."

Visit my friend Dalton Robert's website at

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