The Little Things Make a Big Difference

Janis Hunt Johnson
6 min readFeb 26, 2022
Photo by Monica Turlui — Pexels

An Extraordinary Monk Named David

Why should we care about the life of a 6th-century Welsh cleric, now known as Saint David? Dewi Sant is the patron Saint of Wales — celebrated every March 1st, the anniversary of his death around the year 589. I had never heard of St. David’s Day until I came across it on a desk calendar. Because my husband’s name is David, I decided to look into it, and we started celebrating it just for fun. As I’ve learned more about the holiday over the years, the day has taken on much greater meaning.

Saint David was known for his many miracles, the most famous of which is said to have taken place at the Synod of Brefi where he was preaching about the importance of fully relying upon God. Because the audience was having trouble hearing him, as the story goes, a dove landed on his shoulder as a sign of blessing, and the ground where he stood rose up, creating a hill so that he could be better seen and heard by the crowd.

Once when an attempt was made on his life, Saint David was warned that his bread had been poisoned. He prayed over the meal and felt no ill effects. It’s said that he cured more than one person of blindness, and that he brought a young boy back to life.

Today there are hundreds of churches named St. David’s — over 50 in Wales alone. In Pembrokeshire, his birthplace, the St. David’s Cathedral is located in the place where it’s believed he built his most recognized monastery. David founded many religious communities as he traveled across Wales, England and Brittany — and it is believed that he even made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, after which he became a bishop.

Because he did not want to be cruel to animals, Saint David was a vegetarian, and so were the monks who followed him. Adhering to his austere diet of bread, herbs and vegetables, they plowed the land strictly by hand, so as not to have to break oxen. People called him Dewi Dyfrwr — David the Water Drinker — because he avoided beer and drank only water.

“Do the Little Things in Life”

Saint David’s simple life is memorialized in the well-known Welsh saying, Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd, meaning “Do the little things in life.” Some accounts say that these were his dying words; others say that this phrase comes from the last sermon he gave before his death, in which he said, “Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about.” Another version adds, “do the little things in God’s presence with conscientiousness and devotion.”

As I’ve been thinking about the significance of this phrase, it seems to me that nowadays doing little things is perhaps even more important than coming up with a grand gesture. When we pay attention to our daily routines with an eye toward the Divine — that is, always in the direction of Goodness Itself — then kindness, compassion, generosity and harmony will increase wherever we are, in whatever we do. This practice will inevitably have a greater effect beyond what we can immediately see.

Archbishop John Shahovskoy (of the Orthodox Church in America) recommended that we actually “abandon the big and the difficult” because in truth our Creator “makes great good” from “our little good.” Shahovskoy wisely advised, “One needs only attend to details, to trifles, and try to avoid evil in the slightest and most trivial things. This is the simplest and surest way to enter the world of the spirit and draw near to God.”

When we set out with a mindfulness of God’s presence — in other words, with an awareness of the wonder of Life Itself — to do a good deed in the midst of our ordinary lives, then the little things are no longer little. They increase exponentially in ways we can’t even imagine.

The Jews call this good-deed-doing “doing a mitzvah,” the Hebrew word for “command” — which is related to the Aramaic tzavta, meaning “to attach,” or “to join,” as well as “companionship.”

According to Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, these meanings all blend together if we think of doing good as doing what our Creator has commanded us to do. As Freeman puts it, “by doing that which the Creator wants done, we are bound up with [God] in body, mind and soul…. Mitzvot [the plural of mitzvah] done with joy and enthusiasm lift a person a step above the world and have an enormously greater impact on the person’s environment.”

Along a similar vein, novelist Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote Pay It Forward (also made into a movie starring Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment). The worldwide movement that resulted encourages us, if we’ve been the recipient of a good deed, to pay it forward — to do a kindness for someone else.

Do What You Can Do

Instead of being overwhelmed by the world’s problems and hopelessly sitting on the sidelines, we need to do what good we can do — because all the random acts of kindness put together add up, and they continue to multiply. If we encourage others to join us in this practice as well, it will be more than enough. Then we’ll be working together to do what the Jews call tikkun olam— “mending the world.”

There’s always something we can do. You don’t have to be wealthy to be a do-gooder. Hold open a door for a person who has their hands full. Give a stranger a bouquet of flowers from your garden. Fix a meal for a neighbor who’s lost a loved one. Hand a gift card for a local café to a homeless person.

Jesus (a cutting-edge rabbi of his time) taught, “if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Spiritual pioneer Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health that we shouldn’t hesitate when it comes to spreading the word about the healing power of Goodness: “One must fulfill one’s mission without timidity or dissimulation, for to be well done, the work must be done unselfishly” (p. 483).

It is our ability to express our God-given qualities such as lovingkindness and patience — even for our enemies — that will change the world. Eddy went on to say: “Millions of unprejudiced minds — simple seekers for Truth, weary wanderers, athirst in the desert — are waiting and watching for rest and drink. Give them a cup of cold water in Christ’s name, and never fear the consequences” (p. 570).

Do the right thing. Be the miracle for someone else. Be an angel for someone today, and keep doing the little things. Then when you need help, a miracle will be there for you, too.

This March 1st as I put some daffodils on the table, make traditional Welsh cakes for brunch, cook cawl cennin (leek-and-potato soup) for supper, and watch Gavin & Stacey, I’ll be remembering to be joyful and keep the faith, as Saint David instructed.

I’ll be remembering all the little things that make this day — and every day — filled with blessings to share.

As they say in Wales, Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus: “Happy Saint David’s Day.”

Photo by Lisa Fotios — Pexels

©2022 Janis Hunt Johnson and CS Renewal Ministries. All rights reserved.

A spiritual author/editor/prayer coach/healer, an interfaith advocate and spiritual activist, my mission is to teach, preach and heal, following Jesus’ example. If you like this piece, please clap for it, pass it on, follow me and subscribe, too!

This is the 40th installment in my Medium series, “Christian Science Redux.” My first bookFive Smooth Stones: Our Power to Heal Without Medicine Through the Science of Prayerwon Finalist, Spirituality category, in the 2010 National Indie Excellence Awards. My upcoming second book is tentatively titled Seven Words to Freedom, Eight Days a Week: The Healing Power of Living Prayer — in which I take a deep dive into the original Hebrew of the Shema and demonstrate its power to heal. For humor, read my “60-Something” musings. Connect with me on Goodreads, on Twitter @CSRenewal, on Facebook, and across cyberspace. #LivingPrayer #EveryDayIsAHoliday



Janis Hunt Johnson

Author, 5 Smooth Stones: Our Power to Heal Without Medicine through the Science of Prayer. Transformational Editor. From Chicago to L.A., now in Pacific NW.