Mother Teresa once observed: ‘We are not called to do extraordinary things; we are called to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.’

This is the way of the heart. In the midst of a culture that prioritises intellect over friendship, independence over community, and success over love, the suggestion that our calling is to small things can seem odd.

Yet when we think about it, we often encounter our most meaningful moments in the small things.

A few years ago, I was in Atlanta attending the Summer Institute for Disability Theology. The Institute meets every year and reflects on the question: What does it mean to be profoundly disabled, to be beautiful and made fully in the image of God just as you are, without having to change a thing?

It brings together people who live with physical and intellectual disabilities, theologians, philosophers, and carers. It’s one of my favourite spaces because it helps me to feel what it means to be included without boundaries.

One afternoon I was walking along the hotel corridor when a woman whom I knew passed me in a wheelchair. She called me over. ‘John, I owe you something,’ she said.

‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘Money, I hope!’ She laughed, and then she began to cry. I stood with her in silence. Eventually she said, ‘Three years ago at the disability conference in Chicago I was feeling like taking my own life.

Indeed, I was on my way to do it when I met you. You smiled at me. I decided not to.’ You don’t have to do much to be kind. There is a tremendous power in small gestures. A smile can save a life; a look can shift a soul.

Rev. Dr. John Swinton is founder of the university's Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability.