Mar 16, 2014

Little Things Add Up

I enlarged the photo in this recent post about health here so the words "Why small choices make a big difference" would be clear.  Life is made up of small choices.  Every moment, whether we think about it or not, is a choice.  I am doing this; I could be doing that. 

There was an article by Leiby Burnham, who regularly writes for Binah magazine, which drove home the point of the importance of small decisions.  He described panicking when his street flooded.  He called a neighbor, the type who always knows what to do, and the neighbor came out with a long pole with a metal claw on the end.  He poked around with it while explaining that the sewer covers have holes that get stuffed with leaves.  When he pulled out the leaves, the water quickly drained away. 

Burnham noted that the clog that flooded his street was made up of small twigs and a few clumps of grass which were easily removed.  The removal of the blockage took two minutes.  Contemplating this he realized this is a good metaphor for life.  "It is usually not the big things that make the most dramatic changes in our life, but the little things.  The big things can be disruptive, but it is the little things that make the man."

He goes on to say that marriages are not made and broken by the big things, the big gifts or the angry scene.  They are made up of the daily little interactions, the greetings, the expressions of gratitude, the helping out.  And they are broken by the little things, the repeated actions and words that bother the other spouse.

He quotes a famous marriage counselor as telling him, "Divorces are almost never about the big things; they are always about the little things."  He goes on to clarify, that these little things accumulate and "clog" the relationship and eventually "flood" the marriage with resentment.

He says that at work the same principle applies.  "It is not the person who can pull impressive spreadsheets, give great presentations or the amount of overtime hours put in.  Rather, it is the person with the can-do attitude who responds with a simple 'yes' to as many requests as possible."

Of course he mentions health as well, the point emphasized in the book I reviewed in the post mentioned above.  "Good health doesn't come from big surgeries and expensive procedures" but from eating right, moving a lot, and sleeping enough and well, all on a regular basis.

I like the way he concludes on a spiritual note with the Rambam that says it is much better to give small amounts to tzedaka many times than the same amount one time, because by doing a mitzvah over and over again, we change ourselves for the better and become giving people.  Writing one check does not have that impact.

It is our frequent tefillos, our thinking of Hashem constantly, always looking for the hashgacha pratis and thanking Hashem, our constant mitzvos that add up.

"It may seem small, but those little twigs and leaves will soon gather together and change our entire lives, flooding us with a greater sensitivity in our observance in both mitzvos between us and Hashem and between us and our fellow Jews.  Sweat the small stuff."

As the Rambam also says, we need to see ourselves and the world in equal balance and just one deed can tip the scales.

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