The value of each small step
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
In the Sahel, the savanna area south of the Sahara in West Africa, vegetation other than grass is relatively scarce. Yet birds manage to survive somehow, building their nests where they can, finding food for themselves and their offspring, and singing all the while.
A proverb of the Bambara people, who live there, advises, Doni doni kononi b'a nyaga da: "Little by little, the bird builds her nest." Every little twig counts for that bird. In other words, step-by-step accomplishments do add up. Don't give up; your every effort is useful, it tells me. Similar proverbs are found around the world in the accumulated wisdom of our ancestors.
I think that these words of encouragement, whether they come from Africa, the Middle East, China, or Europe, really have their origin in the universal love of God. In a way, they are angels, messages from God, telling us that divine help supports our proper activities, and that each step we take is important.
Sometimes it seems all too easy to be discouraged by the magnitude of the difficulty facing us, whether it's a business problem or a daunting series of decisions to be made. Or maybe we're faced with pain or disease. At times like these, I have found it helpful to think of God as my all-knowing silent partner, who never makes a mistake. The prophet Isaiah recorded an angel message from God in this way: "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left" (Isa. 30:21). Just as the African bird somehow knows how to find the right twig to build her nest, we can be guided by this "word behind," a God-sent intuition that tells us what little thing we need to do and when to do it.
Once, while living in Africa, I must have been bitten by some insect. The wound became infected and was quite painful. Fearful, I asked for medical help. While I got some relief, the physician told me I would always carry the scar.
A few years later, the same thing happened again, this time on my hand. It was unsightly, and my co-workers began to comment on it. This time, I felt that I wanted to trust God, who, as I had read in the Psalms, "healeth all thy diseases" (103:3). But where to start? I was praying to see more clearly that I was God's child, His image and likeness, a spiritual idea and not a piece of matter. However, the situation continued; it was painful, and I had to clean the wound frequently. It seemed very difficult to try to keep my thought fixed on spiritual things. Clearly, I needed help from my all-knowing silent partner.
One night, after cleaning and bandaging the wound, I was worried about what I'd seen. The wound looked very deep, and I was alarmed. I felt compelled to open my copy of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper. I had grown accustomed to finding helpful statements in this book and applying them to the problems that confronted me.
That night, I was surprised to read, "... this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love" (pg. 266). The context had nothing to do with my problem; in fact, Mrs. Eddy was discussing what to do when one feels friendless. But it seemed somehow applicable to me right then, and I realized that my life couldn't have a hole or wound in it there are no vacuums for divine Love, since God fills all space.
This phrase was a kind of "twig" for my nest of spiritual healing. Almost immediately the pain stopped, and I went to sleep. The next morning, when I changed the bandage, I discovered that the skin had completely closed, seamlessly. It was red for a short time, but that also disappeared, and there is no evidence that a wound ever existed.
This small step has given me courage to continue my reliance on God for help. I know that God will supply me with all the help I need when I need it, little by little doni doni. And, like the African bird, we can be singing, rejoicing, all the while we are gathering those twigs.