This charming Scottish English phrase always comes to mind when I think of all the unsung good people who strive to do good things. It may be that they secretly pay for a stranger’s lunch, or they give up their seat on the bus to an elderly person, or they take the time to listen to a friend’s concerns about their children.
These little acts of kindness sweeten our world. A bit of kindness and compassion goes a long, long way. There are those times in our lives when we feel alone, scared or worried. Some may feel forgotten from time to time; that phone call or email can mean the world to them. The smallest kindness can be the beacon of light that someone desperately needs.
When I was a child living at home with my parents, I saw many acts of kindness. At the time, both my parents worked; my mother was the Editor-in-Chief of the town’s newspaper. Dad worked at the local boat yard and managed all the books and records. Money was tight, and they never bought anything “on time;” they saved until they could pay in full.
During the Christmas holidays, Mom and some of her friends would get together and fill Christmas baskets for the people they knew who were on their own and had a hard time making ends meet. She and her friends would have put aside quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies all through the year. On Christmas day, many people were happily surprised to see a be-ribboned basket on their front steps, filled with home-baked goods and candy, an envelope with $5 in it, and warm socks and scarves handmade by loving fingers.
These are all little things, but as the saying goes, “many a mickle makes a muckle.” There is a hymn I love; “Because I Have Been Given Much” that goes like this:
“Because I have been given much,
I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty Lord,
Each day I live;
I shall divide my gifts from thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.
Because I have been sheltered, fed
By thy good care;
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share;
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
my roof’s safe shelter overhead
That he too may be comforted.
Because I have been blessed by
thy great love dear Lord;
I’ll share thy love again
According to thy word;
I shall give love to those in need,
I’ll show that love by word and deed;
Thus shall my thanks be thanks in deed.”
Music by Phillip Landgrave (1975)
Lyrics by Grace Noll Crowell (1936)
It’s funny how all those little mickles can turn into big muckles!
*Mickle and muckle both traditionally meant “a large amount”, hence the somewhat more logical variant “many a little makes a mickle”. In Scottish English, partly under the influence of this phrase, “mickle” has, however, also come to mean “a small amount”.