Episode 1: My Little Toil Of Love

John Dorhauer

In one of her most breathtaking poems, Emily Dickinson writes: “my little toil of love is large enough for me.” I think that line is beautiful. I keep a copy of that poem by my desk in my office. It has hung by my side for years. “My little toil of love is large enough for me.” I want to change the world. Sometimes I am frustrated that I can’t do just that all by myself. It’s not for lack of effort or desire. At the end of the day, though, I have not proven capable of ending poverty, injustice, bigotry, warfare, hatred, greed, avarice, or oppression. Despite all my best efforts, those evils still persist. I must be a total failure. I know that’s not true. I feel that way often. When I do, I remember Emily: “my little toil of love is large enough for me.”

I am curious: what does the love of God inspire you to do? What great things do you hope your toil of love will make happen? Do you have grand aspirations of changing the world? Is your soul and spirit unsettled by the overwhelming injustices of our time? Do you dream and scheme about how your actions, or your speech, or your writing will make a real difference or have a deep impact? Simple things matter. Small things add up. As I heard someone recently say, “Do one thing right. Then, do another.” Lives are changed by the simple exchanges of kindness, compassion, and love.

Two weeks ago, I gave a pin to someone – a total stranger. It was a rainbow pin I was wearing on my lapel. It was my simple way of saying I love all people, without speaking a word. When she saw the pin, she remarked how beautiful it was. I took it off and gave it to her. She was touched by that act of kindness. I could tell. I later found out that one week earlier she had come out to her parents. She had never been to church, and didn’t think she could because she was lesbian. Now I know what that pin really meant to her. I have since heard from a church close to where she lives that she has started attending.

That was a little toil of love. It didn’t end hunger. It didn’t end war. It didn’t resolve climate change. But in the simple exchange of God’s love between two strangers, something happened that mattered. As we wander around this magical planet, we encounter the mystical presence of an abiding divinity – a sacred presence who, in the little toils of love we offer, touches hearts and changes lives. I am grateful for those moments when the splash of the sacred surprises me and turns my little toil to good. Emily has it right: “my little toil of love is large enough for me.”

Thank you for listening, gentle traveler. I will be back again next week to explore anew what glorious surprises await us we journey together into the mystic.

Categories: Column Into the Mystic

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