Little Things: A Poem about Small Acts of Kindness

Artwork Cielleppi|CC

Little Things poem is an inspirational poem about the value of living in the moment and about the power of small acts of kindness. Written in the 18th century by Julia Carney, the poem tells how little things change the world, and how each little effort matters.

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Little Things Poem

by Julia Carney, 1845

Little drops of water
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean,
And the pleasant land.

So the little moments,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages
Of eternity.

So our little errors
Lead the soul away
From the path of virtue,
Far in sin to stray.

Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth happy,
Like the Heaven above.Click to download a pdf printable version of Little Things Poem Printable.

Numerous parodies of the poem have been published, most notably the following poem by Burgess:

Tidiness Poem

by Gelett Burgess, 1908

Little scraps of paper,
Little crumbs of food,
Make a room untidy
Everywhere they’re strewed.

History of the Little Things Poem

During an impromptu classroom assessment in Boston, Julia Carney composed the first stanza of the poem on a blackboard in only ten minutes.

Carney’s husband was a minister, and reprints of the poem appeared in numerous hymnals and Methodist publications.  Her poem was originally published in a Methodist publication, uncredited.

Little Things became so popular Carney was asked to write additional stanzas, composing an additional three, which make the final poem.  The verse was recited in Sunday school classrooms and re-written for singing in church hymnals.

In the book Poems that Every Child Should Know published in 1904, authorship was erroneously given to the Reverend Ebenezer Brewer, although the poem had actually been written by Julia Carney many years earlier.

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What is the hymn Little Drops of Water, Little Grains of Sand?

The poem Little Things is published in numerous hymnals under the song title Little Drops of Water, typically set to a tune composed by Rhodes.

The hymn was also published under various titles including – Infant’s Prayer and Little Drops. Various verses were added by different authors, including the following hymn stanzas:

Little seeds of mercy,
Sown by youthful hands,
Grow to bless the nations
Far in heathen lands.

Little ones in glory,
Swell the angels song.
Make us meet, dear Savior,
For their Holy throng.

Most hymnal versions also change the phrase ‘make our earth happy’ to ‘make our earth an Eden.’

Julia Carney is reported to have disliked this change, preferring happy to Eden, most likely as a reverence to Eden, though one can also speculate, she believed in caring for the Earth; hence her choice of the word happy.

Even when credited for her poem, Ms. Carney’s name was often misspelled.