Book Note: “Small Things with Great Love” by Margot Starbuck

 

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First, Happy International Women’s Day!

Second, on with a book note. I was convinced I would be unimpressed with this book. On the surface it seems like another do-it-yourself, how-to-love-everybody, christian-y book. I expected chapters on making casseroles and praying more. There was some of that, but it was buried in a lot of information that was practical and intentional.

The book is arranged so that you can read it straight through or you can jump by following guides at the end of each chapter telling you where to go next depending on your personal situation. I was never a fan of the “make your own ending” books, but I was also mildly miffed at the suggestion that reading it straight through was the boring route. So, I jumped around. And enjoyed it. But I also read every chapter.

The first “leap” that I made was from the first couple chapters to one near the end of the book titled “Caregivers.” Starbuck wrote it specifically for people who find themselves caring for elderly parents or for parents of little ones (that’d be me), and I appreciated her sensitivity to the opportunities and limitations of various life stages. As I continued reading I encountered chapters for people who are single or married; live in city, suburbs, or rural areas; are introverted or extroverted; young, middle, or old; man or woman; and school, work, or home. In each section she emphasized the particular nuances of that aspect, the opportunities to love others in ways that were unique to that specific situation, and the limitations. Basically, she didn’t leave much room for a reader to wiggle out of it by saying, “Oh, I can’t really show love because…” Sorry, she has a chapter for that.

While a bulk of the book focused on the contextual elements I mentioned in the last paragraph, there were several chapters that elaborated on suggested steps and values to incorporate in every day living. These were the more challenging blips to read. In particular I was confronted by the chapters on Spending Less and Spending More. In light of my recent efforts to better understand modern slavery, these two resonated with me. Others included the values of mindfulness, giving, influence, and family values (teaching our children).

Throughout the book, the tone was light and conversational without being overly simplistic or smarmy. The chapters were short with quick thoughts and concrete examples. At the end Starbuck included some resources and some study guides for groups interested in going deeper. The book didn’t spur me on to think I wanted to study it for a month, but it was encouraging, thought-provoking, and well-constructed (not something I thought I would ever say for a book that encourages jumping around in the chapters!).

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