In 1996, Dr. Richard Carlson published a book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff. The purpose of the book was to tell readers how to keep from letting the little things in life drive them crazy. We live in a microwave world where everything is done in a hurry, and stress is the rule rather than the exception. Even the most laid back, small-town retiree has only to turn on the nightly news to be pulled back into the pressure-cooker society he or she moved to the country to escape.
While there are plenty of big issues to cause anxiety, it’s also true that the small irritations are sometimes what push us over the edge. The CEO of a Fortune 500 company may clinch a deal with a most difficult client without breaking a sweat only to blow up when a careless clerk orders the wrong color sticky notes. In the private sector, the most patient wife may become a raging shrew when the lid is left up once too often, while her long-suffering husband may lose his cool when she moves the remote control from his favorite spot.
On the other hand, sometimes it’s the small things that bring us pleasure. I once had a friend who didn’t like tomatoes. When he came for dinner, I made a point of putting his salad in a separate bowl before I added the offending ingredient. It amazed me how special he felt when I not only remembered his preference but also considered it when making the meal preparations.
Life offers us lots of opportunities to make life better for those around us in small ways. Campaigns promoting random acts of kindness have been popular in the last several years. Most of these acts are directed toward strangers, but small acts of consideration directed toward those we know and love can have a powerful effect. Hanging his shirts so they all face the same direction or fixing her coffee just the way she likes it will improve your marriage, and putting the toilet paper on the roller in the direction your spouse prefers may save the marriage altogether.
Last week I was on the receiving end of a small thing. It made my day, and I still smile every time I think about it. Several months ago, on the advice of my doctor, we cut wheat products out of our diet. Since most gluten-free breads are very expensive, we’ve been pretty much bread free. I recently complained on Facebook that one of the collateral results of not buying bread is a definite lack of twisties.
There was a time when food storage and trash bags came with twisties, and there were always more of the little wire closers than bags. These leftovers, plus the ones from bread, ensured that there were always plenty on hand for closing that open bag of rice or that partial bag of frozen veggies. Now, I’m down to a few remaining ties, and chip clips or rubber bands just don’t work well in every situation.
Friday, we had hamburgers for lunch at the Senior Center. With most of the meals, we have rolls or cornbread that come in metal warming trays, but hamburgers come with buns – in bags – with twisties. I didn’t give it any thought until I started to leave, and I heard Margaret call my name.
“Hey, Linda. I have something for you.”
Wondering what it could be, I went to the kitchen where she handed me three twisties. We both laughed at the gift, but I felt kind of warm and fuzzy. She had not only remembered my complaint but had also taken a minute to do something about it. Sometimes it really is the small things.
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