In the new powerful film version of Les Miserables, two small things grow to enormous proportions—Jean Valjean’s crime and the mercy that Valjean receives through the priest.
Valjean stole bread to feed a starving nephew and served nineteen years in prison as a result. Yet, upon his release, when he’s caught stealing silver from the priest’s house, the priest calls the silver a gift and charges Valjean to use the wealth to change his life’s trajectory.
Valjean becomes the man who rescues an orphaned girl and raises her as his own. Years later, although he resents his adult daughter’s lover, he saves the man’s life, carrying him on his back through the city sewers. Valjean is the thief, wronged by a corrupt justice system, who takes a path of grace and forgiveness that transforms him.
Many small things have grown to huge blessings for me. One time I was hammering a wood block onto a roof and the darn thing wouldn’t lay straight. I was overheated, exhausted, and starting to cry when someone examined my work and called it perfect. The idea that “perfect” could describe a mess has stuck with me and taught me a kinder way to see myself.
I have a young friend who was struggling to find her identity and place within a large family and responsibilities. I left a note on her bed to encourage her. She told me later that she’d saved the note, that it meant the world to her. Later, she confessed that she wanted to be just like me.
The size of a mercy or kindness doesn’t foretell the scope of its impact. What tiny gifts are still affecting you?