The Importance of Small Things

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By: Kandy Persall

Eulogies. Not usually a source of joy for most people. But, as I wrote the tribute recently for one of my favorites, I glimpsed the power of a steadfast life.

I’d been writing this eulogy for years, first by tucking away conversations and then sealing them with pen and ink. It helps put syllables on a page when you start asking good questions long before the interview-ee can no longer answer. Most of what I uncovered came from his own stories.

Standing alone, not one of the anecdotes seemed important. A preschooler of divorced parents. A high school graduate who joined the military. A farm hand who planted trees at every rental. Nothing spectacular. Nothing earth-shattering. Nothing out of the ordinary.

That’s not to say that his life was without excitement. Moving 1300 miles to live full-time with grandparents at age five, combined with two separate airplane crashes, seemed significant. And then there was the failed test that changed the trajectory of his life.

But the details were as ordinary as a country song: a wife, a son, and a dog named Flip. When his dream of flying for the military crashed, he worked steadily on jobs that didn’t fulfill and quietly helped friends who’d never repay. He never seemed to get ahead. The disappointments were many, and victories rare, but somehow through it all, this singular life learned contentment without a complaint.

Seeing that these ordinary occurrences wove themselves into completeness, I came away with great hope for us all. Daily faithfulness does add up in the end. Our reactions to both the mundane and the pain do have great significance. All throughout the broken dreams and the tear-filled nights, doing one more right thing matters, whether we feel like it or not. 

Seventeenth-century French theologian Francois Fenelon says it best: “There is more danger from the little expenses than from larger disbursements. He who understands how to take care of what is insignificant will soon accumulate a great fortune. Everything great owes its greatness to the small elements of which it is composed. He that loses nothing will soon be rich.”

Ray Tinney indeed left his earth a rich man. Rich in kindness, compassion, and long-suffering. And even in his exit, he didn’t leave us destitute. He left us well-loved, inspired, and encouraged to diligently tend to the insignificant ones around us. 

I am blessed to have one more life added to the great cloud of witnesses surrounding me. If you knew him, you are too. So let’s lay aside our heaviness and run our own race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1).