Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
`Adi Ibn Hatim (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wassallam) saying, "Protect yourself from (Hell) Fire, by giving of half of a date (in charity)".
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
This morning, I had a quick realization about the above Hadith, and I understood one more thing that Rasul (s) was teaching us. A lot of times, I see a homeless person and give him a quarter lying in the car's cup-holder - like half a date. Other times, if there is no quarter lying in the cup holder, I am too lazy to reach my wallet and give him/her a quarter or a dollar. But if I forced myself to do so, and I trained myself to do so, then I feel good about myself.
If you do not miss the simple small acts of charity and you are always looking for them, eventually when a bigger charity opportunity is given to you, you will take it inshallah. If you are always in the habit of donating and not missing the smaller acts, then you will grab on to the bigger acts too. More importantly, you will train yourself to be not lethargic and lazy.
Another example, you see someone doing something that is not right, but it is minor. You think that you are not going to bother advising him/her. So you let it go thinking that your one small advice will not help the person as the person is not good. So next time, when the person does something that is a major wrong, you will be more likely to keep your mouth shut and not give crucial good advice to that person. So basically, by missing small good acts and being lazy with them, you are training yourself to be lazy to avoid the bigger act opportunities when they come. Conversely, by doing the small acts of charity or good deeds, you are becoming more trained to do the bigger acts and not to be lazy or procrastinating when the opportunity is presented.
This is in my opinion, what the Prophet (s) intended to teach us mainly from this Hadith. Among other lessons, training and always being in the lookout for opportunities to earn good deeds starting from the small ones will train us so that when we are given the opportunity to do more, we don't miss them. For example, the person who guards all his Sunnah prayers will guard the bigger Fard prayers more.
The other lessons from the Hadith which I understood before this "TRAINING" realization today was that no small act is to be belittled, and to be really fearful of hellfire and do everything in your power to get away from it.
This Ramadan, when you sit for iftar, split your date in half and give the other half to the brother or sister sitting beside you to break his/her fast. And when the time comes; like when you get an e-mail that the masjid wants you to sponsor an iftar and you don't want to part your $400 savings for that one iftar, you inshallah will have become trained to take that next step. By the way, $400 will buy you endless dates.... inshallah in Jannah!