Faithfulness to a small task

Point Reyes Lighthouse, Marin County, California 2004

Point Reyes Lighthouse, Marin County, California 2004

“We are not called to save the world, solve all problems, and help all people.  But we each have our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world…we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illnesses of our time.” Henri Nouwen

The lighthouse keepers of former days toiled in isolation, mostly without recognition, to save countless lives.  In a similar way, we are surrounded by people whose unsung diligence contributes to the common good in ways never measured or fully known.  People such as Henri Nouwen exemplify the power of obedience to a humble calling.

Because our younger son has multiple disabilities, I have become familiar with the work of L’Arche, with which Nouwen was associated.  To tour a L’Arche home is to experience a renewed hope for the future of people with disabilities, and an increased faith in humanity that blooms in such communities of caring and support.

As we go about our daily responsibilities, it’s easy to lose sight of the many people who depend on our steadfast faithfulness.  I hope you will be refreshed today by the understanding that your work need not be glamorous or lucrative to have genuine and lasting value.


  1. Patricia Salamone

    Julia your post makes my heart joyful. The following by William E. Hindley seems to fit you to a tee.


    Out of the night that covers me
    Black as the pit from pole to pole
    I thank whatever Gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul
    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winked or cried aloud,
    Under the bludgeoning of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.
    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the horror of the shade,
    And yet the manace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid
    It matters not how straight the gate,
    How charged with punishments
    the scroll
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    I read this whenever I feel sorry for myself. It helps me to keep going.
    Have a great day!!!!

    • Thanks, Patricia! I’m so glad you like the post. The poem is very inspiring, thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. IJN* amen. Praying without ceasing for you & yours. Thank You for the prayers for me & God’s Children. i stand in need of prayers this morning for Austin & Patience Rose & their parents in God’s Victory over All things.

    • You will certainly be in my thoughts and prayers today. Thanks for visiting and especially for your prayers.

  3. Just what I needed as I head to work today! Thanks!

    • Carla, I’m glad you enjoyed it. You are one of the people I was thinking of when I wrote it.

  4. WOW Julia. Thanks so much for this, especially this morning. Sometimes as I work from my heart to help others, I think my enthusiasm is sometimes taken for, “Who does she think she is?” This certainly helped. We (I) must to continue to move forward in what God has for us to do by believing God’s word: Never get weary in well-doing. Thanks for your dedication, God given talents, and love for your friends & family!

    • Renee, you are a continual encouragement to me. I love your enthusiasm. It brightens up a world that is far too jaded and cynical. So happy to have you visit us through this blog!

  5. Sherrie Cannon

    The other day I heard Andy Stanley say: “Do for one what you wish you could do for many.” This idea, also from Nouwen, has shown up several times lately. Maybe I better listen carefully. Thank you for sharing.

    • You’re welcome, Sherrie.I think so many of us feel overwhelmed when we consider the widespread need and suffering in the world. It’s important to focus on what can be done for the person right in front of us, and not get discouraged. Maybe this is what Jesus was getting at when he said “the poor you will have with you always” – he was not showing disregard for the poor, but challenging his disciples to pay attention to specific individuals rather than spouting platitudes about a nameless, faceless generality. It’s good to hear from you!

  6. Lynn Hayner

    Today I sent your daily quote to a friend — I can’t tell you how often something you talk about /show/tell makes me realize there is someone I need to reach out to.

    • Lynn, that is one of the nicest compliments I have ever received. Thanks for being here and encouraging me!

  7. Mike Bertoglio

    Nouwen is one of my favorites and have recently been reading,”In the name of Jesus.” Also reminds me of comment that the future of the world depends on our manners, and day to day small civilities. Can’t remember the author.

    • That reminds me of an interesting response from Miss Manners that I read many years ago. I couldn’t find the exact quote, but it was something to the effect that all the worst problems between people, up to and including wars, were basically etiquette violations. The more I thought about it, the more true it seemed.

      Nouwen’s work is a real inspiration, especially for the families of people living with developmental disabilities or other life-altering circumstances.

  8. We love to visit lighthouses in Maine. Your statement, “The lighthouse keepers of former days toiled in isolation, mostly without recognition, to save countless lives. In a similar way, we are surrounded by people whose unsung diligence contributes to the common good in ways never measured or fully known” is great. It reminds me that lighthouse keepers were faithful without knowing their direct impact on specific lives. As you point out, we should be faithful irrespective of knowing tangible results in the lives of others. I keep your family in prayer. Thanks for your daily inspiration! Monte (not Carolyn)

    • Thanks, Monte. My husband and I also like to visit lighthouses. I first became fascinated with the life of the keepers and their families when I visited the San Francisco Maritime NHP and learned about the Farallon Island lighthouse. These folks lived in isolated and demanding circumstances, and at least one family lost a child due to being unable to reach medical help in time. Despite the sacrifices they made to keep others safe, we seldom hear them spoken of as heroes. Thanks for your prayers; we really need and appreciate them!

  9. Sheila

    Your photographs, your words and your courage touch me everyday as I have recently found you through The Upper Room. I hope you will know the many lives you are touching and so many prayers are being said! Sheila

    • Thank you so much, Sheila! I deeply appreciate the prayers on our behalf. We seem to get more bad news each day. The people who visit us here on this blog bring real encouragement to us. I’m so glad you found me on Upper Room! Thanks for this kind and encouraging comment.


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