The Small Things

Y esterday, I had the opportunity to attend a Bradley University baseball game at Dozer Park in Peoria, Illinois. I’m not much of a baseball fan but I must confess that there is something magical about being at a baseball game in a beautiful park in the Spring. The day was a little cool with spots of sunshine mingling with some mildly moody clouds. The diamond was pristine: well manicured grass met freshly raked dirt in baseball’s artful geometry. The players moved about in clean, crisply pressed uniforms in what always appears to me as a well-choreographed dance of behaviors: pitch and catch, batting practice, spitting, scratching, jawing. Fans were relaxed and smiling. The coaches mustered their best baseball stone-faces and the umps, though adorned with their modern armor, could have easily been officiating a 1923 major league game with their codified grunts and motions. There is really nothing else like it.

Our attendance at the game was really happenstance. Just something to do on a visit to see our youngest daughter. A place to spend time. A small thing that was really a great opportunity to be together for a couple of hours. As I sat in that park, smiling and laughing with Sally and Macy, I was transported, for a time, to a place of freedom. No worries. No deadlines. No news.  No issues. Just the moments together and an occasional foul ball to keep us  on our toes. Magical.

We are approaching the end of April and 2018 marches on like previous years, quickly and unrelentingly. Many have just finished the annual death march we call “tax season.” A collection of small stuff that often get bucketed into the “big things” list. Isn’t it odd how we do that? Attach some money to something and it becomes a “big thing.” For those that had to write a check, perhaps it felt big. And then, like an afternoon at a baseball game, it’s gone.

Just over 20 years ago, Richard Carlson published his famous book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. The subtitle of the book reveals his point: it’s all small stuff. When it comes to the issues we face, we humans are masters of turning small stuff into big stuff. Yet, we lose sight of the importance of the small moments that create a life well-lived. At home, dinners together, car pool, playtime, and homework become day-to-day chores…and then those moments are gone, their beauty  often sacrificed on the altar of the “big” career: meetings, dinners, travel, conferences, etc. There is an insidious irony in the application of the word “small” for both important and unimportant.

As I consider the long list of dramatic moments in my own life, I recognize the inordinate amount of energy spent on small stuff: worry, fear, doubt. Each series of challenges appearing and disappearing as if written into my very own screenplay. Many of the same worries repeating themselves again and again throughout my life. And then I consider the small things that were some of life’s most beautiful moments masquerading as chores in the day-to-day monotony of routine. Until they were gone.

Consider your life today, do you have small stuff pretending to be big stuff? On the flip side, are there small elements of joy hiding behind tedium? Of course there are – we are wired to react and it becomes so very easy to lose perspective in the midst of those reactions. How do we gain or maintain perspective? For life’s challenges, we have to step out of the moment and take the long view. In the scheme of your life, does that $500 you had to spend to fix your car really make a difference? How about $1000? $2000?

Money is an easy target when considering energy misspent. What about relationships? How many times have we let the drama of a moment explode into an extended rift? Did we stop to consider the injury in the context of the long term? The long view gives us a sense of proportion and priority. Many, many things fade into insignificance under the shadow of time.

Ultimately, the small things make up the fabric of our life. Day-to-day moments that accumulate over the course of time and eventually add up to the memories worth having and the times worth keeping. In between are the impostors; small stuff pretending to be big stuff. Yes, we will face big, difficult problems but they will pass if we let them. In and among those things that grab our attention are the small things we’ll miss the most when they are no longer there. Returning to my magical afternoon at the baseball game, it seems that we should swing for the fences every so often. However, the base hits are best for putting putting points on the board. Live for the small things but don’t sweat the small stuff.


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