Without going too far out on a limb, I am fairly certain we have all been told to do this: appreciate the little things in life. We were likely children caught in a situation where we expressed upset, lack of gratitude, disappointment, or simply bad manners when we first heard it. Perhaps the most wanted present didn’t arrive on a holiday or birthday, or a big event didn’t deliver as we felt it should.
To be fair, I’ll speak from my own experience, just in case some of you have appreciated the little things from your earliest waking moments. If so, you are saints and paragons of virtue and I don’t live up to that standard. (It took me some time to get this message. I won’t tell you when I really began to live it because you might be disappointed in me.)
Any expression of disappointment or regret was met with “appreciate the little things,” or “appreciate what you have.” As a child, that felt like a punishment and fell on my ears more as a warning, as opposed to the solid life philosophy that it is. Then, it felt more like a consolation prize and I’ll use a very immature example here just to make my point: “I wanted chocolate cake, but got vanilla. I should be glad I got cake at all.” Age, maturity, and life experience all contributed to a much healthier perspective and, you’ll be happy to know, it really did come down to appreciating the gesture, or some “little thing.”
Two things come to mind about these “little things.” First of all, there is perspective. What’s little to you, may not be little to me. Feeling grateful to get out of bed without aches and pains may be a “little thing” at age 25, but it’s a much bigger deal later in life. Second, I think it’s easier to appreciate “little things”—however you define “little”—when the “big things” are not an issue. If you don’t have to worry about paying the rent, access to healthy food and health care, for example, then “little things” are visible. Stress over making ends meet, or awaiting the outcome of a medical test, will more easily obscure those “little things.”
Appreciating these “little things” is about focusing on what brings us joy and happiness. Again, think of perspective. My husband made me a terrific hand-crafted coffee for me to take to work this morning. That brought me joy and I cherish that he does that for me[i]. It would be easy to take that for granted and (I hope) I don’t. That may seem like a “little thing” to some folks, but as with most marriages, those gestures take us in a more meaningful direction.
Our staff and volunteers regularly bring meaning and joy to our clients. About half of our clients (approximately 500) recently answered a survey about social connectedness. 93% of the responders said that they look forward to seeing their volunteer every day. Is that a “little thing” or a “big thing?” Again, that individual perspective is subjective but whichever “thing” it is, it’s meaningful and cherished. I very much respect the relationship we have with our clients and appreciate how much we mean to them.
This very real example sums it up for me: A client left an emotional voicemail for us on May 6 expressing appreciation for the fact that we remembered her birthday with a card. That’s something we do for all clients. One of our staff gives a birthday list to a volunteer, and she writes up the cards to clients each month. Then, Volunteer Staff puts the cards on the route sheets for volunteers to deliver. This particular client included a “thank you” to all the volunteers who deliver to her, but most especially she mentioned those who serenaded her with the “happy birthday” tune. To the staff who heard the voicemail, the client sounded as if she was speaking through tears of gratitude.[ii]
We circulate these messages via email to staff because we all like to pause during the frenzy of the day to be reminded of……yes, you know it’s coming….these “little things.” It’s what brings value to our work and to our relationships with others.
I hope you experience many “little things” that bring joy, comfort, and value to your day.Be well,
[i] Let me say that this example is not a shameless plug for more of this treatment.
[ii] She also told us to that the secret to maintaining health in the pandemic is to boil eggs in vinegar and iodized salt and eat one every day. If we combine that advice with a glass of Ovaltine, like one of our centenarian clients, we will all live to 104!