NO SMALL PARTS 

Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get. [Matthew 7:12 (MSG)]

gardeniaWhen the Academy Awards were held recently, Oscars were presented for things like best director, best lead and supporting actors and actresses, and even best make-up and hair styling. If it’s true (as my theater teachers claimed) that, “There are no small parts, only small actors!” how is it that no awards were given to the best small part players? Regardless of the perfection with which they may have fulfilled their “bit parts”, their screen time was too short to be nominated for anything. To add insult to injury, they may have been known only as Dog Walker or Nurse #2! The small role, however, doesn’t mean the character played an insignificant part in the story. Nevertheless, after moving the story forward, the bit part players just fade into the background. Even so, while their names may be forgotten, the story wouldn’t have been the same had they not played their roles.

When thinking of the people who passed through our lives, we know who the major players are but what of the others, the ones who left a small but indelible mark on us—the people with the bit parts in the scripts of our lives? We may have forgotten their names or never have known them at all. Perhaps it was a neighbor who always waved and smiled when you passed by, the teacher who said you weren’t “dumb,” the trucker who changed your flat tire, or the nurse who let you hold your stillborn baby until you were ready to let him go. It may have been the stranger on the plane who prayed with you as tears rolled down your cheeks, the woman who said “You’re beautiful!” when the scarf slipped off your bald chemo-head, or the stranger who listened when you desperately needed to talk. Whether it was a small kindness, words of encouragement, a little unasked-for (but much needed) help, prayers, a chat over coffee, or just a hug, the bit players in our lives played fleeting but pivotal roles and our interactions, while short-lived, changed us in unexpected ways. They listened, challenged, suggested, assisted, shared, taught, and demonstrated God’s love. They had only a few lines of dialogue in the script but the movie of our lives would be incomplete had their scenes been cut by the film editor.

Granted, there probably are a few unpleasant, painful, or upsetting encounters with bit part players we might prefer having been edited out of our lives, but we don’t need to dwell on those. Let’s remember, however, that we are the small part players in other people’s lives—whether it’s the bagger at the grocery, the receptionist at the doctor’s, the busser at the restaurant, the lonely widow down the street, the kid trying to sell over-priced candy or popcorn for his team, the person giving us technical assistance on the phone, the mom with the crying baby on the plane, or the annoying telemarketer. How will we play our role? Will it be worthy of a heavenly award?

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. [Augustine]

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. [Galatians 6:9-10 (MSG)]

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