The look of horror on my piano teacher’s face was a sight to behold. As indeed was the ferocity with which she grabbed my wrists and hastily pulled them away from her beloved piano. It was only as she marched me to the kitchen to wash my hands that it dawned on me: the problem I’d had with a very oily bicycle chain on the way to my piano lesson was having far-reaching consequences. In my eight-year-old enthusiasm for my weekly piano lesson, I had been blissfully unaware of the amount of oil that had transferred itself from my bike to my hands, to the piano. Those ivory-white piano keys were no longer ivory-white!

It’s St David’s Day here in Wales, and ever since I can remember – even in those distant times before the oily piano day – it always felt like an important day. In the Nantlle Valley where I grew up, the daffodils would be out, we’d bake Welsh cakes at school, it’d probably be raining, and we’d be reminded of the patron saint himself, Dewi Sant. Much of what we know of the once Bishop of St David’s has been handed down through centuries of tradition, with some aspects of his life completely shrouded in mystery. However, every 1 March, somebody somewhere will be reciting the saint’s last words: Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.”

Both be joyful’ and keep the faith’ make for excellent meditations in themselves, but today my thoughts are caught up once again in the words, do the little things’. It’s a lovely turn of phrase that immediately seems accessible, journey-like, well-paced, and attainable. It’s a note of caution too, to not rush ahead, to pay attention to our surroundings, to deal with our delusions of grandeur, and in the words of another saint, to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3 – 4). It’s a strong suggestion that perhaps the little things’ are really the important things, and as such are actually the big things. 

In my many conversations with all sorts of people from across Wales, I’ve started noticing more and more how God is at work in the little things. It’s not always easy. I think I must tend to gravitate towards the so-called impressive and spectacular, perhaps at the expense of the actual easily-missed day-to-day outworking of God’s wonderful kingdom. It is often in the small acts of generosity and kindness that the light shines acutely brightest – and I am challenged to be more patient, more gentle, more at peace with myself, more at peace with those around me.

"It is often in the small acts of generosity and kindness that the light shines acutely brightest."

I’ve found myself wondering if we had a list of little things priorities’, that we as Christians and churches could adopt, what would be at the top of my particular list? Here’s one thing I think we could better embrace: a greater knowledge of and generosity towards other Christian groups and traditions, together with a growing self-awareness of how our words and actions might impact the wider family of God. It’s so easy to become self-absorbed in our own endeavours, experiences and traditions, that similar to the scenario in my opening story, we’re sometimes in danger at best of not helping someone else’s situation, and at worst of actually causing additional needless headaches. I’m sure the piano covered in black splodges didn’t contribute to enhancing my piano teacher’s well-being that day!

I sense in Wales a blossoming grace towards one another, with a greater appreciation of the wider body of Christ. I’m not suggesting we should lose our distinct differentials, but the sense of unity for the season ahead is getting stronger. My prayer is that we would excel in at least this one little thing, this little thing of learning to bear with one another in love’. It starts perhaps with consistency in looking out for the timely conversations or intentionally being ready to offer a kind word, being prepared to listen and empathise. I’m full of hope on this. We could build up some momentum here.

You’ll be pleased to know that my piano teacher didn’t hold the matter against me. In fact she became one of my biggest supporters. I’ll always be grateful for the simple words of encouragement she gave me over the years. She was brilliant at the little things’.

Have a blessed St David’s Day everyone… Gwnewch y pethau bychain’.