Small gestures can be significant

“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” —Attributed to Martin Luther King Jr.

I was watching the news a couple weeks ago, which I try not to do, and a story on Middle East tension was wrapping up. Without a warning, or at least a smooth segue, the broadcaster said, “And here are the top 10 prime time comedy shows for the week.”

I’m not a doctor, I don’t study psychology, but how much can our emotional selves absorb? Worldwide destruction brought into our living rooms complete with graphic images, then a literal second later, we’re expected to switch that off and consider how long “The Big Bang Theory” has been on top of the charts.

I don’t know the answer other than the idea of reigning in reality. Figuring out how to know be aware, but also knowing when enough is enough. We’re human.

We care about people. We care about girls who have no access to school and children who have no clean drinking water. We care about poverty and equality. We care about good schools. We care about people who just want to be safe. We care about the environment our kids will bring their kids into one day.

How much is too much to process when you’re one person, not quite sure of your own individual part?

Some march or stage demonstrations. Some lead revolutions and distribute water filter kits. But clearly not everyone is built for grand gestures.

Which all lead to the thought, “So what then?”

Then I remembered my first-grade teacher. Age 7 was a long time ago for me, but I can still picture the view from my desk, and if my memory serves me, a small partitioned area where I would pull on a fat set of headphones and listen to phonics and reading tapes.

(The cassette type, I assume. Or could it have been an 8-track? That’s not out of the question.)

This teacher came into my office once and told me she enjoys reading my work. This is a very small gesture. It mattered only to me. But how good might it feel when the person who taught you how to read and write in the first place tells you they enjoy what you do, decades later?

Imagine the impact if everyone could be on the receiving end of such a simple, heartfelt, seemingly insignificant comment.

I’ve heard it said if you want to change the world, stay home and love your family. Maybe that’s where the difference is to be started. Here, wherever “here” is today.

Maybe we need more “insignificance.”

I’ve been envious, or maybe it’s better described as “in awe” of people who give the world everything their hearts and minds hold. The trailblazers and activists who make a change do it from a place of conviction and hope.

But life isn’t necessarily large. As it turns out, most of the time, it’s small.

“Grand” is defined as “magnificent and imposing in appearance, size or style.” By that definition, “grand” defines a lot of actions. Appearance and style can’t be measured in numbers.

That opens up the playing field a bit, creating space for the most powerful insignificant moves.