Little Things Matter

Over the past several weeks I have crossed paths with many, many people. In my job I interact with college students daily as well as administrators, faculty, maintenance and security workers. There are a couple of different gas stations and grocery stores that I frequent during any given week and most of the clerks know who I am, many of them know my name as well. There is a restaurant that my wife and I like to have breakfast at on the weekends and there is one waitress in particular who knows us and will chat with us each week. Most of these interactions are with people who either know me or know my face and I superficially have a relationship with. There are others who do not know me at all but I have communicated with on some level due to circumstances and necessity: the mechanic who replaced the brakes on my truck and the saleswoman who tried her best to sell me a car while I waited; the clerk who rang up my new shoes at Kohl’s; the campground staff who checked us into our site and then out; the various gas station clerks at all of the many stations we have visited as we’ve been traveling; countless others I have shared a passing “how are you?” with in the hallway or waved on at an intersection while waiting my turn or just smiled at and tipped my head to say “hello”. And then there are some of you who have just discovered this blog and are curious. Most of these people have no idea the issues and circumstances my family is going through right now and the difficult decisions and choices we have had to make recently. And to be honest, I don’t really know anything about them either…and don’t really care enough to ask. I just want my truck back or my breakfast served or to get through my days appointments…and no, for the 3rd time, I don’t want to by a new truck…

I have been think a lot about all of those people I interact with in a given week and how I have no idea whatsoever what they are dealing with on any particular day. We know so very little about each other these days – at least very little about what really matters. Sure we have all of the social media avenues by which we interact with people but most of what we see there is superficial and, to be honest, merely a distraction. We post about recipes and building projects and pictures we like but even Facebook and Twitter are not appropriate forums for the deep and personal, tragic and traumatizing events we all deal with. Superficial is safe – deep is dangerous. I wonder what would happen if suddenly one day I awoke with the amazing ability to know what each and every person I meet that day is going through. If I were to know that they just broke up or that they had just lost their job or earned an amazing promotion. What would I do if I knew someone was planning their suicide or dealing with a forced retirement? What would I say to someone who felt completely lost and alone but was very good at painting on a smile hiding their confusion? Would it make any difference in my life if I were to know that the man behind the counter had just said goodbye to his wife of 30 years two weeks ago and would today after work once again kneel at her graveside in a puddle of tears because he couldn’t bear to be home alone?

There is so little we know about each other, yet so much more that we assume about one another. I’m not suggesting that we all wear a sign across our chests with our life story written so everyone can see and understand…but I’m sure we could all give a little kindness and share a little tenderness in the likelihood that those we meet are not as well put together as they’d like us to believe. I know I have noticed those people who have spent an extra minute or taken an extra step to make things better for me even though they had no idea what has been going on. I doubt that many of them knew what they were doing, but somewhere, somehow they felt a nudge or thought twice and made a little more effort…perhaps that is one way the Good Lord moves through others to get to us in our times of need. The little things really do make the big things a little easier to bear.

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