Like many today, I suspect, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all the BIG THINGS around me — the noise, the vitriol, the hubris, the chaos.
I long for the time, not too long ago, when the world around me seemed a whole lot smaller — more humble, peaceful, manageable.
In that frame of mind I recently unearthed an essay originally written eight years ago on this very topic. Here it is, refreshed just a bit:
Sometimes big is little.
Equally important, little is big.
No, I have not gone off the deep end. At least, not yet.
Rather, this is a simple observation of a complex fact. That we, in our irrepressible, undeniable and self-defining human vanity, often confuse the significance of scale.
Not all that is big, is better. Most of the time, small is superior.
The big things hit us, sometimes, very hard. Politics with a capital “P”. Organized Religion. Finances. Human Suffering. The Economy.
Yet, because of their size, the big things can sometimes seem unreal. They are so large that, ironically, their meaning cannot be seen, too momentous to grasp. To understand. To make meaningful.
Conversely, the small things in life are what really matter. They’re what really impact us — though we often take them for granted, so small that they can seem unimportant.
Peaceful quiet. Uncommitted time. Uncluttered simplicity. Private reflection. Personal accountability. Selfless charity.
Because they have a way of getting inside of our souls, taking up residence in our spirits, and changing who we are, from the inside out.
There is so much Big going on around us that it’s hard to see anything else. Indeed it takes a lot of work sometimes to see the small things hidden in the shadows cast by the Big in life. But that effort to seek makes the finding all the more rewarding and special.
And so, here are some small things for which I am thankful. In a big way. (And I didn’t even really have to look hard for them because – and here’s the real point — they’re right in front of my face every day):
- A wonderful Shi-tzu. The best 10 pounds of loopy dog that a family could ask for. He sleeps 22 hours a day, yet fills the other two with slobbery love, adventure, and crazy amusement. What more could anyone ask for?
- The pure joy of stumbling into a great book and the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing any book. Connecting to an author’s ideas, images and visions is magical in a way that nothing else, not even the best movies or plays can duplicate. So much of that connection depends on the reader’s personal commitment that the experience becomes a shared investment, and the rewards that much greater.
- Vacuuming. The repetitive movement and solitary function are more calming than a bottle of Valium. It is wonderfully easy to get lost in the machine’s loud, whirring cacophony and temporarily disconnect from the rest of the world.
- A small house. Just enough space to shelter our family, provide roots and context and warmth. Yet, small enough to keep us humble. Life is about so much more than material possessions, like over-sized houses. Anything beyond “need,” is “want.” And “want” can be a slope slick with narcissism.
- Handmade fleece blankets. Our daughters made them years ago as gifts. Not quite square, a tad too short, some of the felt ties longer than others, yet crafted with childhood’s enthusiasm and pride — and absolutely nothing is warmer.
- Filling bird feeders. We cannot be God. But feeding His creatures makes us His helpers, which is never a bad thing.
- Sunny November mornings. I despise winter. So, as life’s wheel spins relentlessly toward wintry death, every scrap of life must be collected and celebrated as the gift that it is. A little warm sunshine in the 11th month serves as a hopeful reminder of what was, and what will come again if only we can survive the next few months of gray cold.
- Talking with my young adult daughters. Yes, actually talking. About everything, big and small. They are at turns brilliant, frustrating, funny, nerve-wracking, challenging, thoughtful, unaware, insightful, inspiring, self-centered, caring – in other words, the same as nearly any adult. What’s more, they’re the adults we will contribute to society. Therefore, they are as worthy of our time and attention as any “grownup.” Valuing them now will teach them to value others later.
- Couch time with my wife. I always want to be close enough to rub a tired foot; laugh together over another stupid joke; mumble “I love you” loud enough for only her ears; and reach over and squeeze her hand, reassured that we share more than a mortgage and a last name. We share time and space, place and purpose.
Now I’m off to enjoy dinner with my family.
Ah! Dinner with family!
Another one of those seemingly-small things that really is so much bigger than it seems.