Many times in our lives we feel we must accomplish great things or have, own, and create great things to be successful. In the world of Donald Trumps and Mother Teresa’s, how will we ever measure up?
A wonderful woman I know recently went to a conference where she heard several young college-aged women talking on the podium about how they, at their young age, had already accomplished traveling to Africa to help the underprivileged. This woman said to me, “These girls seem so young and have already accomplished so much, I feel like a failure.”
The woman who made this statement goes to work every day as a nutritionist, helps people obtain optimum health through their diets, and helps people with feeding tubes get the correct nutrition. In addition, she volunteers her time on a weekly basis, taking calls in a free call center and giving callers loving advice that they probably couldn’t afford otherwise. To me these accomplishments are every bit, if not more amazing, than a one-time mission trip to Africa.
Perhaps because we are inside our lives every day and we do these things without thinking, we don’t realize how very special so many of our actions are. The little things that we do every day to make things pleasant for our fellow man end up to be a mountain of love. More than the big things, the little everyday things make the biggest difference in life, even though we may never know how some kind word or smile will make a big difference to someone. Small things that we do for others and for ourselves can add up to a life that creates joy in every moment.
I saw a television special on PBS called “The Pale Male: the Best of Fathers.” This special showed me how something so simple and basic can bring joy to so many. It was about a red-tailed hawk that thrives in the urban world of New York City. The hawk nested with his mate on a Fifth Avenue Apartment Building ledge and hunted in the skies over Central Park. Little by little word got out, and throngs of spectators started gathering in the park with telescopes and binoculars to watch Pale Male and his family. People brought their children, and a wonderful little community started, where people arrived at 5 a.m. to try to see the first flying of the baby chicks.
One gentleman said, “I used to watch people doing this, and I used to say, ‘These people need to get a life.’ Now I’m one of them.” It seems that the people who live in New York City were starved for contact with nature and this small thing of watching a hawk and his family brought them much joy.
To appreciate the little things around us—to notice them and realize that these things bring us happiness—is a huge step in having a joyful life. Appreciating and being out in nature can do wonders for us, and every location has something of beauty in nature to appreciate, even in the cities that some of us live in.
Having pets is something else that can bring us great joy. It’s been shown that having pets can lower blood pressure and add quality years to people’s lives. Local shelters are full of wonderful pets looking for a good home. Even if you don’t have the opportunity at the moment to have a pet, you can pet sit or volunteer at a local shelter to walk dogs and spend time with animals that need to be socialized. I’m not in a position to have pets right now, so I borrow the pets of my friends and family to get my fix every now and then.
So many small things can bring joy to our day-to-day moments, and these moments are what the stuff of our lives are built on. Appreciating the weather, going for walks, wonderful music, flowers, and delicious healthy food are just some of the things we can enjoy every day. And many of these are free or close to free. In fact, whoever said, ‘The best things in life are free’ really said something worthwhile.
The large accomplishments in life are nice, too, such as winning a medal, having the accolades of your peers, and achieving the big job title, but these are transient and eventually lose their shine. The medal will tarnish, tomorrow someone else will get the accolades, and the job title can go away at any time. But the many special little things that are around us renew themselves daily, and we can always enjoy them. Here’s to the little things!