This is the title of Jodi Picoult’s latest book, sparked by the growth of racism in the States given impetus by the rhetoric of Donald Trump and his followers. It is the story of a black nurse in a maternity hospital who has a court case brought against her because of alleged neglect of a white baby who dies whilst in her care. The brilliance of the book lies in Picoult’s ability to recognise that racism is communicated not just by blatantly prejudiced people and language but by asides, ‘innocent’ words and involuntary gestures by all of us which carry racists messages hidden even to the user. The book made me look much more carefully at my own racism which lies buried in attitudes picked up over the years and never rooted out – but latent in words and phrases I unconsciously use. Small things can do great damage.
The theme of the book made me reflect on Christian spirituality – which also seems to be associated with small great things – in this case with an immense potential for good. Spirituality is a word to describes how a loving Reality permeates our world – usually through a host of small and fleeting yet potentially powerful experiences. It is the antidote to those other small great things which undermine our humanity. But in the same way that I need to become aware of the small great things which are destructive, I need to try, with much greater awareness, to tune into those small great things which are creative and life-giving.