The Little Things Matter

I’ve never been real comfortable with the “R word” argument. This is not to say that I don’t think it’s an ugly word, but I often feel like I’m slogging uphill on that particular battle and some days it is just too steep.

Last week a commenter expressed the sentiment that sometimes people are just too sensitive about what other people say. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes it feels like people are just looking for something to be upset about and so I hesitate to post things like a particular word or phrase that I dislike.

I got reminded of something this weekend though. I was reminded that just because a thing is hard to do, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.

Thanks to the wonder that is Facebook, I recently connected with a former student of mine. While he was my student, he’d gone through a pretty rough time and I had tried a number of things to try to keep him in school. My final step was driving out to the building he was living in and telling him that he needed to come to school.

It felt like a pretty pointless gesture at the time. The odds against him were huge–he was living on his own, supporting himself, he was learning disabled, and had little in the way of a support system. As I stood on the front porch of a house he was living in (a mattress on the floor and no electricity), watching the police circle the block, I felt completely helpless.

He went on to finish high school and these days he’s in the army, currently stationed in Iraq, and has a family of his own.

Today on Facebook he thanked me for “everything” I’d “done for him.” Truthfully, the effort I put out was small compared to so many other things I’ve done. I was doing more than teachers are expected to do, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t difficult or hard.
I realized that the little things do matter; the details can be important when we’re dealing with other people.

Those little incidental changes can add up: smiling at the person in a wheelchair rather than looking away, catching yourself when you’re about to call something “retarded,” refusing to laugh when a friend tells a racist joke. Maybe people are too sensitive, maybe they should lighten up, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to be better. Slowly, these things gain momentum and we never know what the tipping point will be.

We will fail. We’ll use a word we wish we didn’t. We’ll offend someone when we mean no harm. We will make mistakes. We should keep trying because the little things matter. They do.

Charlie learning about plants. He felt like he needed to taste the soil–strictly for research purposes, of course.

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  1. Adrienne (durgagirl) says:

    Very well said.. sometimes we do just have to also realize people may not THINK before they open their mouths. It's a matter of teaching the next generation that sensitivity to others and our actions, MAKE a difference. Like yours did to that young man. Thank you for that!

  2. I'm sorry, but that soil looks like chocolate to me.
    Good post. Even though some people might very well be "too sensitive", I think we would all do well to think before we speak. I'm pretty horrible at it–but like you said, that doesn't mean you stop trying.

  3. Took me forever to come up with the R-word …I would guess that's a sign that things are a changin', but I'm sure I'm older than you. :) My two and three year old daughters have "had" to taste the dirt too. The two year old so many times I wondered if maybe she had a mineral deficiency.

  4. Candace says:

    Good stuff, Katy! Charlie, you are soooooo funny! I like that you let hime explore…for research purposes…of course!

  5. Cristin says:

    Well said.

    I'm not a sensitive one. It is attitudes more than actual words that will bother me.

    I think about the little details when I'm at work… even though most of my patients are demented, they still smile when I sneak them cookies.

  6. Nice point. Just like the saying that goes something like 'to the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world'

  7. isumom says:

    Excellent way of putting things. But what tickled me most about this post were the pictures of Charlie tasting the dirt! What a silly boy :)

  8. Paulette says:

    I'm glad you wrote this. I never used to be someone who got offended easily, but over the past year or so I'm just appalled by the casual use of the R-word (meant as an insult) by my friends and some family. I've been successful in getting my husband to stop using the word in that sense over the last year. When I pointed out to him why I found it offensive, I could tell it really affected him- he just hadn't really thought about it & was so used to hearing it. I guess it's a small victory.

  9. So beautifully said, Katy.

  10. blogzilly says:

    Guess it's time to change your nme to Yoda. :)

  11. Wahzat Gayle says:

    You are right this as usual is well written!
    And I am as always thankfu lfor the little things because in my world it is what makes things easier :)
    Keep keeping on… as I say always you inspire!

  12. Nadine Hightower says:

    I agree the little things a person does matter.

    And about people being overly sensitive! I agree!! Every time you turn around some group of people are outraged over some little something. And then apologies are made.
    Some people are just itching for a fight.
    And on the other hand you have people that are insensitive and crude… so there has to be a balance.
    And that's where you come in, to word it just so that we all get it. to educate us.


  13. Life really is about all the little things that we do, not the big, monumental things. Very good post.