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I imagine that just about everyone knows someone who has been out of a job for a very long time. With official unemployment rates hovering around 10 percent, and "under-employment" rates substantially north of that, chances are that if you have a job right now, you've never been more grateful for it. (At least that's what you'll keep telling yourself, if you know what's good for you!)
I've been alive long enough to know that on this side of eternity nothing lasts forever. Fortunately, that principle applies to bad things as well as good ones. As rough as this economy is, it will--eventually--improve. Sure, it could take a while, even a long while. But no matter what side of hope-and-change you were on a couple of years ago, we've reached a national consensus: everybody hopes things will change now. Until they do, there are a few positives to be gleaned.
Lately, our family has been looking for ways to reduce expenses. I have to admit that I wasn't too enthusiastic about the prospect of cutting things that, well, I didn't want to cut. At first, it wasn't easy to come up with things that would save much of anything at all. We weren't going to give up cable television, or cell phones. That's when we decided to take a different approach, and start looking for little things we could reduce or cut completely, maybe without even noticing.
In about a week, we got rid of one cable box, reduced two smart phone data plans, cancelled the morning newspaper and a home service plan, and turned off the driveway streetlight. None of those things was very significant on its own, but together, they added up to almost $100 of savings per month! We also attacked the school supplies lists more with an eye towards minimizing costs. We went first to a dollar store, then to Walmart, and only afterwards to an office supply store. The result was a total bill that was less than half of what we've spent in previous years. There's no doubt that knowing how to economize is a life skill, one worth practicing, and teaching.
The real lesson this all reaffirmed for me, is the simple truth that little things really do matter. That is especially so for growing in faith. You don't have make big changes, only small ones. You don't have to reach for heroic goodness, just take hold of the good that is easily within grasp. You don't have to know everything, only what--and whom--to believe. It's the small things we ignore, and the ones that catch our attention, that make the most significant differences in our lives. Our great and glorious God has made this world for us as we are: little and lowly. But he is preparing us for the greatness and glory of the world to come, the one which we hope to share with him forever.
Little things is how we save, and it's the little things, ultimately, that save us. Small virtues, small sacrifices and small acts of love: these are how we will arrive at the gates of heaven. But it is the boundless mercy, total self-sacrifice, and undying charity of God that will bring us through those gates and into his embrace. The Christian life is too grand to be lived well by the likes of any of us. Still, with God all things are possible, and in him what seems small has lasting value and transfiguring power.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.