Small Things Do Not Replace Big Things

This is my response to the comment below that was made on my blog a while back:

My point is that people of faith who ache for a lost, dying, and hungry world ought to spend less time worrying about what soda or coffee to drink, or whether to put on a (“fair trade” wool) sweater or turn up the heat, and saying things like “heres to you” to pizza donating murderers, and more time doing things with a little more substance to help alleviate or solve the problems they lament.

Dear Friend,

If people of Faith, and readers and author of this blog, were spending ALL of their time worrying about what to buy, regulating temperatures and toasting murderers, I too would have a problem with that. From what I can tell you see the above steps and actions to be “little things.” They are things that you see as not having any major significance in the world, effecting no major changes, impacting only a small portion of this “lost, dying and hungry world.” I think to some degree you are right. I am willing to admit my choices not to drink coffee and avoid certain brands of other products are “little things” in the overall impact they have on the world. I won’t disagree with you there. I will say, though, that I think these little things are hugely important and have a much bigger impact then you realize, but that’s a conversation for another time. Today I simply want to clarify that I am in no way suggesting that these “little things” take the place of what you consider “doing things with a little more substance to help” (I’ll consider these ‘big things’).

Little Things should take the place of Little Things
When I write a post about what soda to drink or what coffee brand to avoid, I am not suggesting that we take this up as our life cause, schmoozing in coffee shops and talking to corporate elites about avoiding certain products, while the needy remain hungry and poor. What I’m suggesting is that you replace the ‘little thing’ of your choice of soda (usually based on some brand preference and price) with a new ‘little thing’ of a choice of beverage based on a certain ethical or moral value. When I write about turning down the heat in your apartment, I’m not suggesting campaigning for the removal of all heating units in the USA or even quitting your job to have time to chop firewood. I was simply writing about my “little” experiment with turning down my heat, and considering a “little” lifestyle change as it relates to heat and energy consumption. These are little things, and they generally will remain so (I’ll talk about why they are extremely important in another post).

Big Things should take the place of Big Things
Here’s where I think the clarity needs to be made. Turning down your heat, buying one brand of soda or clothing rather then another, takes very, very little time on a day-to-day basis. Turning your heat down two degrees does not then exempt you from serving soup at the shelter for those that don’t have heat. Buying fair trade coffee does not then exempt you from providing drink for the thirsty in your neighborhood. I’ve never suggested, nor intended to suggest, that you can earn your indulgences with a few strategic ethical purchases. Here, though, is were it gets tricky, because the reverse is also true.
Helping out at a soup kitchen does not free you to oppress, or comply with oppressing, people in your city. Sponsoring a child does not allow for guilt-free purchasing of sweatshop clothing that forces communities into needing sponsors. Planting a tree for a community service project does not give you free reign to use as much energy as you want.

Hopefully this clarified things a bit.

3 thoughts on “Small Things Do Not Replace Big Things”

Leave a Reply to Keane Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *