Occasionally, I’ll stop by the store on the way home and pick up a small bouquet. After grumbling at the high cost of flowers in the US, I remember what they are really worth. In terms of value for dollar, I can think of few better investments.
What they add to my relationship with my wife Sarah is immeasurable. For wrapped up in that gift is love, thought, and appreciation. It’s a little thing, but the little things are everything.
The big things matter, absolutely. A big present is always appreciated. But those are out of the ordinary. They only happen once in a while. Most often, life is small.
To live in the little is to be a hero. We love to point to the heroes that rise to the occasion and do something extraordinary. We admire their courage and effort. They are worth celebrating. But I believe the heroism of the ordinary takes more courage. It’s difficult.
It’s hard because the payoff usually isn’t immediate or visible. You may not see the results for days, months, years, or even at all. The act is done for it’s own sake.
It’s hard because it’s a choice. You can’t just be nice one time and call it done. You have to do it again, and again, and again. It’s a process that doesn’t end.
Be this kind of hero. Make people matter in the everyday:
Write a note: The first thing I do when I get home is check the mail. Some days, the mailbox is empty. Sometimes, I get a magazine like the Economist. Often there is junk mail, which only makes me not want to buy the product. But occasionally, someone sends me a personal note or card. Wow. It makes my day. That someone thought enough to write something on paper and send it – with a stamp – tells me I’m significant.
You can create the same effect for others. Send a quick note to to a friend. Say thank you to someone who helped you. It doesn’t have to be a long letter, although those are good too. Even the smallest act could brighten someone’s day.
Wish blessings to people: There is a man near my office named Willie. Every day he gives blessings to the people that go past. “May God bless you, and have a wonderful weekend,” he sings. Most people probably ignore him, but I’ve come to appreciate it. I like getting blessed. I like when people wish me a good day. Even though Willie is homeless and his situation is hard, he still wishes the best for others.
Apologize without inhibition: I am certain that you are all much better at this than I am. It’s taken a long time for me to even start to figure this out. The other day, I got home from being outside and the apartment was hot. For some reason it made me grumpy and cold in my greeting to my wife.
After steaming for a little while in my room, I came back out and said sorry. It was a small thing, and we would have moved on without any issue – we’re good at brushing those kind of things off. But the apology matters. It reinforces the relationship.
Help people: When I’m traveling and am not sure how to get where I’m going, I am grateful for the people who pause to help me. With a smile they tell me what train to take. Often, they even tell me about a shortcut or a good place to visit.
It’s easy to find people in need of help. It could be someone who dropped something, a man that tripped and fell, a lady struggling with a heavy bag, or, in my case, a clueless guy staring blankly at the subway map. Most often, helping doesn’t take much work on your part – just the initiation. But it makes a difference.
These are all small. They’re easy to ignore and not bother with. But they’re worth doing. What about you? What are some of the little things that you do?
The beauty of a thousand details. I made this photo in Carol Stream, Illinois.