A Tip of the Hat

“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. He writes: “When I was brought down from my prison cell between two policemen, a man I knew waited in the long dreary corridor so that, before the whole crowd, whom an action so sweet and simple hushed into silence, that 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. Take the time to show compassion and respect to someone you meet this week. Both of you will be better for your act of kindness.

Dear God, remind me not to neglect the small acts of compassion so that you, in turn, might fill them with your great love. Help me to know that you may actually change the life of someone through my gesture, which allows your compassion to shine through me. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Grace and Peace


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