Among the graves of the great and famous in Westminster Abbey lies buried an ordinary, anonymous soldier who lost his life in the Great War. It is known as the tomb of the Unknown Soldier: a symbol to remember of the sacrifice and courage of ordinary men and women.
In some ways Captain Sir Tom Moore is the opposite of the unknown soldier. After he died last week, he was on the front page of every newspaper in the country. He had been knighted by the Queen and has become a national hero. Over the last year, he became one the most well-known soldiers in the world.
But he achieved the extraordinary by doing something fundamentally ordinary: by walking up and down his garden to raise money for the NHS. As he approached his 100th birthday, he made the effort to do something to help others.
Dignity and hope
Much to his surprise, Captain Tom’s walking captured the imagination of the country. And as the publicity grew, he displayed a dignity and hopefulness which inspired millions of people. This was no publicity-grabbing stunt, but his way of showing love for his country and gratitude to all those who work in the NHS.
Mother Teresa once said:
“In this life we cannot do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Captain Tom’s example shows us that when we take steps of action to help others, it can lead to results that we can never foresee. He aimed to raise £1000, and ended up raising over £30 million! Just as he would never have known the impact of his walking when he started, neither do we know the impact of small things that we do.
It is a little like the famous story about Jesus feeding 5000 people. Somewhere that morning in Galilee, a boy took a simple lunch out with him. He couldn’t know that Jesus would use this lunch for one of his greatest miracles. Through the boy being willing to share what he had, God’s power was able to work and it meant thousands were fed.
That miracle later gave Jesus the opportunity to declare to the crowds who he was: “I am the Bread of Life, he who comes to me will never go hungry.” That unnamed boy’s small act of kindness had a big impact that still speaks to us today.
Big and small things
And we can be sure that God sees all things, whether ‘well-known’ or ‘unknown’. In Psalm 139 it says:
“You know me, when I sit or rise, you know my thoughts, you are familiar with all that I do where I go and what I say.”
God sees everything. He knows when we make that phone call to someone who needs us, or when we help someone out without anyone else knowing about it. He knows when we harbour resentment or don’t do what we know we should. He knows the big things and also the smallest things. Everything is before him.
The whole nation has been touched by Captain Sir Tom. His kindness, hope and courage should inspire us to do all we can for others in this difficult time.
We are unlikely to become famous like he did and often we will not even know the impact of what we do. But that does not matter. God sees everything, however great or small. Whether we are unknown or well-known is not the important thing.
Let us never underestimate the impact that everyday actions can have: every act of kindness or sharing can be used remarkably. When we act in faith, hope and love, what may seem ordinary to us can be used by God in incredible ways.
This article is based on a talk given by Olive Kuhrt at St Mary’s Church, Haddenham