Great things are done by a series of small things brought together – Van Gogh.
They Matter More than Ever
As we walked the halls of our daughter Esther’s new school, I was struck by how much bigger in size this school was compared to her preschool. Esther is in elementary school, and as a father, I felt my grip on her life loosen just a bit. First, I am no longer her driver to school. She is excited to take the school bus every day. My consolation is I get to walk her to the bus pick-up, a stone’s throw from our house. Second, she is making decisions on what to wear, and whereas before she gladly accepted our wardrobe choice for her, now she counters every decision. These are a few of the little things I had come to cherish as a parent. Now almost without warning, they are being ripped from me. Walking down the hallway, I asked Esther, “Are you afraid?” “No, daddy,” she replied immediately and confidently. It was then I realized the fear I sensed was mine, not hers.
Parenting and writing have a striking semblance. Aside from the anxious moments like starting kindergarten, they both require patience, attention to detail, and a willingness to persevere in tough times. As I fought tooth and nail at times this year to keep my blog schedule consistent, I couldn’t avoid the fact that little things kept me going. But I had to notice and appreciate them in order to build on them.
When we finally entered Esther’s class, her new teacher greeted her with a smile. I could tell she smiled behind her mask because her eyes lit up. This smile, known as the Duchenne smile or smizing, is hard to fake. Smizing reveals genuineness as the edges of the eyes lift. It was the first of many little things I noticed the teacher display to create a welcoming environment for the children. The second little thing was she created a treasure hunt, something all kids love, to help her students get acclimated to their new class. As Esther found each item on the treasure hunt sheet, she returned to the paper and circled it. This created a winning atmosphere for Esther and showed her she was already accomplishing something great even though she was in a new place. My wife and I cheered for Esther as she found her way around the classroom. My fear dissipated watching our daughter happily go from one section to her class in discovery.
I find a similar process when I sit down to write a new blog post. In addition to just starting, I enjoy discovering new material like a treasure hunt and coagulating it all together to develop content to share. I cheer myself on every time material I have researched finds a landing place on my blog. Noticing these little things creates a big impact on my writing process. Life can sometimes seem daunting with so much to do and little time. Breaking down big tasks into bite-size pieces can rapidly increase your chances of accomplishment. Taking note of the little things has given me a greater appreciation for them.
“Short but punchy” is a compliment my editor Samson consistently uses to instill in me that powerful sentences need not be lengthy. Likewise, in life, little moments create long-lasting memories. My mum visited us this summer after a two-year absence which included her inability to travel in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. As restrictions eased and travel was possible, we planned her visit this past June. My eyes still grow moist when I recall waiting outside the big double doors that separate international travelers from their loved ones at Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. My anticipation thickened every time the doors opened. Finally, I saw her. For a moment, I froze as I watched her look for me with matching anticipation. Those few seconds are forever etched in my heart and mind. To see my mum face to face, in good health after all that is happening, was one of the best blessings God gave us this summer, and I am grateful. Never overlook the smallest of moments. Appreciate them. They are the seeds on which better and greater moments are built.
Build on them
My wife has a knack for noticing and appreciating the little things. There are days we look through pictures she has captured of little moments. With delight, I say, “That’s nice,” as we reflect on the events that led to that moment. My wife goes a step further. She develops an idea from the reflection that creates an opportunity for an even moment. For example, we were reflecting on our most recent family vacation and the little things we did as a family, and how rewarding they were. Almost instantly, she said, “We need to do more things as a family like picnics and outings.” She was building on a current moment. This led to family days at the park and movie nights together.
Similarly, there are times when I reflect on my past blog posts and come across a phrase or sentence that stands out. Without hesitation, I capture the sentence in my imagination and expand it into a new blog post. In reflection, what little moments can you build upon into something greater?
Final Thought: By noticing, appreciating, and building on them, I am learning that little things are the fulcrum on which greater things are predicated. If you are seeking growth in an area of life, pay attention to the little things, and over time, you will look back and bear witness to the immense return they brought to your life.
Keep on keeping on.