Small Things with Great Love in Jerusalem

My Plan

I planned for that Sunday to be a take it easy, spiritual, talk about God day.  That’s one of the reasons you go to Israel right?  Those feelings that connect you with your faith in God.

When we travel I usually create a list of things we can do and then each day we pick which of those things we want to do that day.  Most of the items for this trip included history, architecture, and culture. Because we brought teen children I made sure to add fun! This Sunday I outlined it a little more specifically.

We would get a ride that morning to the church in the BYU Jerusalem Center.  Then afterward we would walk to the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, and the Garden Tomb.  I desperately hoped for those sacred experiences, but in all my research  I lacked confidence in having enough knowledge of the lay of the land and steepness of the Kidron Valley to enable us to have them.

Maybe the reason I tend to be loose in my planning is that when I make plans God tends to laugh.

The Day Starts

That morning we headed out early in case finding a taxi proved difficult, but we found one pretty quick and arrived with plenty of time.  Before the service, we walked behind the building where we could look over this valley full of history and miracles, up at the “Old City” of Jerusalem and at models of what the Old City might have looked like during different time periods. You can find more and better pictures here of the Kidron Valley.

The Kidron Valley to the left and models of what the city was like in different time periods are on the right.
The Kidron Valley with the gold dome from Dome of the Rock at about 1/3 of the way from the right side. The Old City walls seen in front of the dome average 40 feet in height.

After the service finished, I talked to several people to get a better idea of how to put my plan into play.  I figured that many of them knew these places and the best way to go, but that was not the case.

Fortunately, we talked with a man, named Trevor, who lived and served there as a member of a branch of the Canadian military.  He tried to give us directions, but I wasn’t clear what they were. I also worried now having seen the valley, that we might end up taking a much longer walk than planned!  Our new friend finally told us his apartment lay in that direction so we could come with him. How relieved I was.

Then We’re Off!

And by off I don’t mean that we slowly walked down the valley, talking about the things we saw and felt that day.  No, this man possessed a fit body and I certainly did not! His plan was to get to the other side and my plan was to have an experience.  Okay, my plan included different experiences than we then had! LOL. Please know I take all the blame for this as I did not communicate well, or rather now looking back, I did not communicate at all my plan.

Path descending into Kidron Valley through the olive trees
The path descending into Kidron Valley through the olive trees after we left the BYU Jerusalem Center

We zoomed down the mountain, quickly past the olive trees.  At least, that’s how unfit I felt! We walked fast enough that I worried about keeping pace on the uphill portion.  Along the way, Trevor pointed a few things out to us though I didn’t hear what they were because I scrambled behind everyone just concentrating on breathing and not stumbling.

Time to Go Uphill

I confessed to our new friend I couldn’t go uphill that fast and suggested he point the direction and travel on without us.  He patiently slowed down quite a bit and stayed with us instead, which I am most grateful for as things unfolded ahead.  Still, trekking up the side, I struggled. At several points along the way we stopped, I gathered my breath and then we trudged along further.

Looking east over Kidron Valley at BYU Jerusalem Center
Looking east over Kidron Valley. The BYU Jerusalem Center is in the middle, at the top of the hill, surrounded by green trees.
Things Get Worrisome

The only time I ever felt fear during my 2 weeks in Israel occurred halfway up the hill.  Upon discussing it with my family, I discovered we all have different memories of what happened.  I remember us resting on a bench or a rock.  My daughter, Krista, remembers us walking.    However it worked out, one thing clear to me was that a young boy, about 7 or 8 years of age, pulled out a gun and pointed it at my family.

I sat there in shock and fear wondering what to do, sick over the weapon directed at my husband and children. It seemed like the longest time before I noticed that our Canadian military friend didn’t show symptoms of stress.  I realized that he felt more than calm military composure. He must have recognized the boy held a toy gun even though it seemed very real to me.  A few tense moments passed for me and my family and then the boy ran away, bringing relief to my heart.

This was seriously not what I was planning on for a peaceful Sunday walk! I no longer stressed over the things we might be missing. I was just grateful to have my family safe and well.

We Made It To The Top

So on and on we went till we made it to the top, up around the northeast corner of the Old City. Trevor dropped us outside the Garden Tomb Site and went back to his apartment. A little while later he found us there and gave us bottles of water and snacks. I would love to repay him for the small things he did for us that day.

I felt, there, some of the feelings I hoped to experience during the day.  Plants and flowers in pots and in the ground mirrored the peace felt within.  People sang and prayed reverently.

But it was what happened before we got to the Garden Tomb on the sidewalk next to the Old City near the Damascus Gate that changed my life and part of my plan for my life forever.

Damascus Gate near where we were.
The Moment My Life Changed

At that moment Krista sat down on the sidewalk among all the people and began to cry when she felt sharp, stabbing pain in her back from the trek up the hill wearing the heavy backpack. As we gathered near her, young  Muslim schoolgirls in uniform encircled her.  They talked quietly with each other while looking at her.  Confused in this foreign land, I wondered what they thought and I watched to see what they would do. Then Trevor told them, quietly, several times, “She’s ok”.

One of them walked towards Krista and gently laid the back of her hand on her forehead.  Her face held concern and compassion.  How I marveled that she would be comfortable enough to touch a stranger, a foreigner in her land. It pulled at my heart and I knew I wanted to be like her.

It was such a small thing, yet made me want to love people deeper.  Seeing this happen encouraged me to open my heart further.  Share more.  Be more approachable.  Listen better.

Only Small Things

I’m reminded of a quote I often hear attributed to Mother Teresa.  “There are no great things, only small things with great love.” At that moment I saw a school-girl show great love through the touch of her hand.

Saying no great things only small things with love

As I looked for the quote for this post I found that it was “significantly paraphrased” when it was attributed to Mother Teresa. As someone with a passion for wanting quotes to be credited to the right person, I dug and dug for more information.  I wanted to see if she had really said this, where she said it, and just what she said.  It wasn’t easy.

I finally found where I think it came from.  Mother Teresa’s 1979 Nobel Peace Prize Lecture included, ” If we could only remember that God loves me, and I have an opportunity to love others as he loves me, not in big things, but in small things with great love, then Norway becomes a nest of love.” This creates an added dimension for me personally.  Sometimes my faith is pretty weak.  There is so much I don’t know.  So much I struggle with.  But this I know: God loves me and He loves you.

Either way,  whether we believe in God or not, the message of “small things with great love” is beautiful.  It isn’t a great thing to touch someone’s forehead.  Or ask someone to join you on your normal walk.   It doesn’t take a long time to quickly email someone who needs to know you are there.  Or sit and listen to someone for a few minutes.  It takes no great strength to run to the store and get groceries for someone.  Or to sit on your balcony and sing to your neighborhood.

Yet all those small things are done, I believe, with much greater love than we may now realize.  Together, each of us doing small things, makes great things happen all around us.

Please comment and tell me when someone showed you small things with great love.