Large vs. Small–Which is More Important?

Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

The other day a panel truck travelled down the street. Along its side was inscribed what was apparently its motto and claim to fame or at least recognition: NO JOB IS TOO SMALL.

As it passed by, it may not have struck a very distinctive or “catchy” note at first reading—but then, on the sudden, it may have roused one’s curiosity: “Wait a minute! That’s not the usual “No job is too big” pitch. Rather, it read: “No job is too SMALL.” But, by the time one swung around to see if the truck was still in sight so that one could glean from its panel inscription exactly the kind of enterprise it boasted of pursuing, it was too late, because by then it had disappeared from sight, leaving one to conjure up the possible kinds of jobs in which it might engage, that specialized in smallness where help might be needed in certain situations.

For this might have been a plumbing outfit that would be needed to retrieve small items accidentally lost down a pipe or some tubing, or an organization devoted to providing clothes for small people, such as infants, or a specialty store devoted to providing patches for household linens or items of clothing needing a patch or even a number of patches for a quilt-making operation. On the other hand, it might have been engaged in the jewelry or watch-making trade, specializing in small gems.

When all is said and done, it is likely that there are as many small things in life needing attention as there are large ones. And there is probably as many production enterprises devoted to precision tools and instruments requiring repair or improvement of small items as there are their counterparts engaged in doing the same for much larger mechanisms. For example, the devices devoted to the discovery and study of micro organisms, whether on or under the earth, or in the depths of the seas, are likely as numerous, and complex, as are those developed to explore the vast sweeps of outer space. The murky waters of the oceans likely conceal in their depths as many minute organisms as the vast stretches of space teeming with their gigantic counterparts. God’s craftsmanship is as evident in the small as much as it is in the large, and likely there are as many thriving scientific enterprises here on earth devoting themselves to minutely small ventures as there are their counterparts engaged in much the same work, but at the other end of the size spectrum.

The point of interest, then, is the question whether “the small” can be as important in terms of influence or significance or value as “the large”? Admittedly, what is large and imposing tends to attract our attention sooner than what is small and unobtrusive, whether it is buildings forming the skyline of a city, or airplanes lined up on the runway of an airport, or ships anchored in the harbor, or stores featuring massive displays of their merchandise or animals caged in the zoo. Our attention gravitates toward what is imposing and massive more than it does toward what is tiny and unobtrusive.

But these examples all refer to what attracts our attention. But that can differ considerably from what we regard as meaningful and significant for us. For it is likely that most of us spend more time and energy on items of considerably smaller dimensions than those cited above. This is obvious in view of the considerable time and care we devote to our medications, which we carefully line up on our bathroom shelf: small items, each of them, but calling for precision on our part. And urban dwellers with cars but no garages exhibit the same concern in shopping for small enough cars that are more conducive for parallel parking along the street rather than larger. roomier autos, that prove more of a problem in this matter. And do not prospective husbands (probably more than wives-to-be) prefer a future spouse either his size, or smaller, rather than one who towers over him? And some shoppers deliberately seek out small, “mom & pop” establishments to which they take their business rather than large supermarkets featuring several floors of their many wares.

Admittedly, the large enterprise usually has more to offer in terms of the variety and quantity of their products. And an imposing enterprise is normally easier to locate than a smaller one. But there is lacking the opportunity to develop a relationship in a larger organization than is possible in a smaller one. The Lord Himself seemed to have similar concerns about the comparative value of the small and the large when He remarked, apropos of servants who faithfully fulfilled their duties during the absence of the nobleman for whom they worked: “Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.” (Lk 19.17) This corresponds rather closely to the panel truck traveling along the street, featuring its sales pitch: NO JOB IS TOO SMALL.

So to specialize “in the small” is as likely to be an advantage as it is a disadvantage—perhaps more so. Important things can come in small packages, as every young couple know.

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Author: CPP

We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.

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