I am hobbling a bit these days since I broke my little toe about a week ago. I accidentally walked into a piece of furniture—which did not move! It is the first broken bone of my life and I am learning about aggravation, embarrassment and patience—all in greater supply than before. A little toe changing my walking patterns? Interrupting my activities? Wearing an ugly (very visible) boot? How could a little thing change my life?
This experience triggered the memory of a short parable from Matthew 13:31-32 about the planting of a mustard seed, a small— “the smallest” seed. A tiny seed, when planted, will become something much bigger. And, in the case of the mustard seed, becomes valuable, helpful and “the greatest”. It provides a haven for birds and a place for nesting. Then, Jesus adds an even shorter parable about yeast leavening all the flour. Surely the listeners would identify with small acts of planting and baking yielding the miracle of growth.
As I experienced the ministry of Prairie View from a seat at the Board of Directors’ table, I heard story after story, experience after experience, of “small” acts of caring, helping, advocating and sharing. Sometimes the staff would admit that it was a “small thing” that led to a client getting a new perspective and healing from trauma. Sometimes an administrator would say it was a “small speech” made at a legislative hearing where officials heard about an innovative approach to the treatment that minds were changed. Sometimes it was a Board member who said it was a “small discussion” as she toured the (new) addictions unit when she understood the profound nature of specialized treatment.
Over 60 years ago, some thoughtful folks decided that caring for the mentally ill could be done in a “small” way. Build a “small” hospital, staff it with a competent doctor and a caring staff (mostly volunteers) and there would be a “small” miracle on the plains of Kansas. Soon, everyone would see that there were new ways to treat and care for those who were suffering from mental and behavioral issues. From that “small” experiment, came Prairie View which has touched thousands of lives and led to millions of dollars devoted to wholistic care. Innovative programs and consistent professional care have led to transformation of individuals, families and communities. It’s like the mustard seed parable: it’s planted; it grows; it provides a haven for those who need a resting place.
My toe will heal and this small inconvenience will disappear. We can have faith that “small” acts of kindness, treatment, advocacy, and therapy will continue to be the Prairie View’s contribution to integrity, dignity and sensitivity. Prairie View is a “mustard seed” kind of place. Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dorothy Nickel Friesen is a retired Mennonite pastor and denominational minister who served for nine years on the Prairie View Board of Directors.