A Little Goodness Goes a Long Way
My father, Jay McCormick, was a writer and the author of several books about the Great Lakes and the men who sailed on them. He lived most of his adult life in a suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, near the shores of Lake St. Claire, an offshoot lake between Lake Huron and the Detroit River. He told me a story one day that deeply moved him. He and my cousin Bud were at the public marina on the lake, rigging their small sailboat when, suddenly, the lifeguards began to blow their whistles up and down the dock and beach. Then came an announcement: 'Would all the adults please gather as fast as possible on the beach?' They went, joining a throng of other grownups, and were quickly directed by the lifeguards to form a long human chain, stretching the beach shoreline. The guards told them that a small child was missing and feared in the water, or rather under the water at the beachfront. They were directed to hold hands, and to slowly, slowly, together wade out into the water one long line, and to feel, with their feet for the small soft body of the child, in the muddy lake bottom. He said, 'It went very quiet!' Each person, in turn, wading forward, hoping to find the lost child and praying in that same breath, that theirs would not be the foot that found the child's soft drowned body. The line moved forward, slowly, ankle-deep... then knee-deep... and finally thigh-deep... and then there was a sudden call from the beach, and they turned. The little boy had been found - on the nearby playground! And a joyful splashing of all those parents, grandparents, and adults as they raced back to the shore and shook hands, and then went back to their own lives and pursuits.
Daddy was much moved by the moment. It was just a small gesture of 'good' for another, and yet that working together because it was needed, was also a great moment.
These past few weeks, as we have all watched in horror the war in Ukraine and seen the devastating photos of bombed-out buildings, dead civilians, and valiant defiance of the Ukrainian people, I have also been moved by the many 'little acts of goodness' that have multiplied as ordinary people cared about other ordinary people. I was so proud of the Berliners (I grew up in Berlin) lining the train station platforms holding signs: "I have room for three persons: 2 adults, one child" and the feeding kitchens at the border crossings into Poland and Romania. Then there is the Batman impersonator from the US, going into hospitals with his Polish sidekicks to cheer up wounded children and their parents, or my favorite - the T-Rex costumed Thomasz, who meets the trains and hands out chocolates and lollipops or the mothers and fathers who have simply left their strollers and baby carriages at the border crossings for the fleeing families or their pets! There is the Scotswoman, who's married to a Polish immigrant and showed up at the border and has, in her mom miniwagon, been driving families who have a relative or place to stay as far as they need to go across all of Europe - to Norway, or Dublin, or France. There are the flag makers and the Ukrainian wedding dress immigrants who now create battle armor for their compatriots. And the marches with solidarity in so many countries by the thousands. And the famous buildings lit in the Ukrainian flag colors. And the condemnation on every hand of the Putin aggression. Then, there is our own Small Delusions, raising $1200 for the relief of those fleeing their homes and lives.
Is it enough? Of course not. And yet, in God's grace, each little act of goodness goes a long way. C.S. Lewis said once - and I paraphrase - that Christians can never sit on the fence; we are either on the side of good or on the side of evil. When we take any action to uphold and witness to the good, to the love of God in each and every human person and their right to live freely, joyfully, and safely in God's world, we knowingly decide to be a part of the long chain of God's people stretching out across all the world and all circumstances and all ages, hands joined to say, "I will love my neighbor and stand with them". Fred Rogers - Mr. Rogers - said that when he asked his mother about terrible things happening to people, she told him to look for the helpers, for that is where you will find God. And each of us and all of us can look, and see, and do our small good.
Christ Church has a sign outside that I'm sure you have seen - Love Lives Here. In our small community of believers, we individually and collectively and intentionally do a lot of small good, and it goes a long, long way. Is it enough? Of course not. Would that it was, and yet, with each step, we singly and together reach out to find one lost child, one lost soul and bring the love we have, and it is good, and it is grace.