Small Acts, Big Payoffs

The essayist Logan Pearsall Smith put it this way: “I might give up my life for my friend, but he had better not ask me to do up a parcel.” Another Smith, Zadie, put it even better: “I will do anything for my family except visit them.” Both were kidding of course. Sort of.

The small burdens of life are, in fact, sometimes more difficult than the major crises. We all show up for the funeral. But we forget the birthday, the weekly call or the holiday visit. Life is always rushing at us, and while we can rouse ourselves for the big moments, in quieter times we are likely to remain on the couch.

Yet as a giant brick is not a dwelling, a heroic act is not a friendship. Each relationship is built on an accumulation of small acts, as a house is an accumulation of small stones. Emerson taught wisely, “Go often to the house of your friend. Weeds choke the unused path.” Rare is the funeral where I do not hear the lament — “had I only spent more time when he was alive.” Well, right now she’s alive.


Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.