A precariously piled stack of books occupies small table beside a comfy old chair in our home, each offering a quick dose of daily advice for living. It's the fast fix I often seek, too hurried and harried am I to explore offerings that exceed much more than a couple hundred words. Fortunately, there's no shortage of books that provide a myriad of two minute drills to help me capture the inner calm that often eludes me - especially during the holidays.
Dr. Richard Carlson's little book, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff ... and it's all Small Stuff," is a perennial chart topper in this category. But, it wasn't until our book group decided to read another one of his works, "An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love: The True Story of the Best Gift Ever Given," that I learned Dr. Carlson passed away from a pulmonary embolism in 2006. Shocking, he was just 45 years old. Still, he managed to make a big impact in his short life, all by sharing his insight into how handling the smallest challenges can make for a better life.
As the years speed by at an exponential rate, I know making a big splash in the world isn't my destiny (at least now that the Power Ball has been decided). Growing older with a degree of grace requires accepting, and even appreciating, this simple fact. So, during one of my two minute drills recently I gave some thought about what I can offer, if not a best seller. The small stuff came to mind.
Since the girls were very young, I've tried to make Christmas big for them. A sizeable tree from the nearby forest, presents piled high beneath, leaving them to ponder the surprises in store for Christmas morning. I love taking them to see the big holiday offerings, everything from the super-sized chocolate train to the torch-lit parade cascading down the mountain. It's all so exciting, but leaves precious little time to consider the small stuff.
Maybe it's time for the big stuff to take a back seat, however, because the value of the little things keeps nagging at me. A friend recently shared a video of acts captured by security cameras. The accompanying message stated the video may be shocking. Indeed, it was. In the spirit of small things, the cameras captured people doing all kinds of crazy - kind - little things. Everything from people rushing a stranded car, pushing it safely out of a dangerous intersection to the unbridled joy captured when two brothers were unexpectedly reunited. No one knew these small acts of love or generosity would be recorded, making each scene all the more captivating. The cumulative impact was huge.
Seeing how the little acts were the start of something big, my Christmas goal is to start small. Not to sweat it, but to realize instead that the biggest mark I'll ever make is fashioned by every small step I take in a positive direction, starting with the gift of a kind word, or maybe a genuine complement. Recognizing that everyone I run into this time of year is just as busy as I (think) I am, so I might as well ditch the scowl and wait with a grin instead. To change, ever so slightly, the tone I take with my kids or my husband.
It occurred to me then that this entire season really is about one of the "littlest things" of all, a baby in a manger. Some might think it an unusual start to the biggest holiday ever. But nearly all would agree the spirit of the season, just like the spirit of the man celebrated, is best captured by all of the small acts of kindness and love we manage to share, every day, and during this big time of the year.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.