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Little bits and pieces make a masterpiece

If you gave me a thousand pieces of colored glass, in my hands that would be a bucket of garbage for the land fill. If you gave those same thousand pieces to a person with an imagination and some creativity, there is a chance a mosaic masterpiece could result. A mosaic as you know is a picture or design made by placing small colored pieces, like tile, in a mortar. Or a painting of small dabs rather than broad strokes. The famous Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh (who sold only one painting in his lifetime) painted in dabs. If you put your nose up to a copy of one of his paintings, you will see the little dabs. If you step back you will see the big picture. Van Gogh's big pictures are now considered masterpieces.

If you ask the average person what his or her biggest thrills or major achievements have been in life, most of us would have to answer that, aside from one or two weddings, we didn't have any big thrills or major achievements. That's because for most of us life is the little bits and pieces of daily routine. For some of us those bits and pieces would be like a thousand pieces of colored glass that don't come together for a big picture or come together for an ugly picture, while for others, those small bits and pieces, when you stand back and look at them, form a beautiful mosaic masterpiece. Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, was a saint if there ever was one. She tended to the diseased and starving in the gutters of Calcutta, India, for years and years. She said, "In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with love." On that same line of thinking she said, "Jesus said love one another. He didn't say love the whole world."

When I went to the first grade, I got to know two very important people immediately. One was Miss Gehring, my first grade teacher and the other was Bob Callies, our school custodian. I spent 12 years in that same school building and Bob was there for all 12. Every day Bob did his job in little dabs of sparkling excellence. First of all, I swear he knew the names of every kid in all 12 grades of that school. He knew mine. There were 50 in my graduating class so there must have been 500 to 600 in the school. And he called us by name. We were all part of his family. He smoked a pipe and was soft spoken and kindly. Our school was three stories high and Bob was the only full time custodian there. The grounds had flower beds, and Bob had flowers and plants all over inside the school.

We not only loved Bob, but we had terrific respect for him. One time when I was in high school, I was leaving the school after a basketball practice and the door to the outside was one of those push-bar doors. Feeling my oats, I decided to open that door with a leaping two-foot kick. I missed the target and banged the door without opening it. So I backed up and took another flying run at it and missed again. After my third loud failure, Bob was there. I could have wrecked the place. I was kicking at the doors of Bob's school. He just looked at me and said in his soft voice, "What are you doing Lynn?" I felt so ashamed that all I could do was hang my head. I had so much respect for Bob that it was like being scolded by the Pope. I hope I had the presence of mind to apologize. I'm still ashamed all these years later.

It turns out that it wasn't only the kids who admired and respected Bob. The school administration and school board did too. About the time I was finishing my 12 years, Garrison needed to build a new elementary school. They named it the Bob Callies Elementary School and assigned Bob as its custodian. Imagine that, being custodian of a school named after you. I have always been proud of my hometown, Garrison, N.D., for the class that was shown in naming that school after Bob.

Bob never did anything big or dramatic but he had a life filled with small acts of devotion to his job, caring about "his kids" and soft words of kindness for everybody. The big picture of Bob was a beautiful mosaic masterpiece of sparkling bits and pieces.

The moral of the story is that any one of us can create a beautiful -- or ugly picture with the dabs and small strokes we do every day.