Smallest of Details Prove Large in Life

“A lot of times its small things that are really the big things to people.”

My friend is in the construction business. While he will do any type of work, more often than not he finds himself helping put people’s lives back together after storms or natural disasters. According to him, while some projects seem bigger than others in scale, everything he touches is a big project to the person on the other end.

“Doesn’t have to be a total house redo – it can be a simple piece of baseboard along a wall. But to the homeowner, that piece of trim could be the most important thing in the house.”

He shakes his head, his personal experience pouring out. Large, powerful hands clasp together on the small table in front of us.

“There are no small details in life,” he said. “They are all big.”

“There are no small details in life,” 

Earlier I’d asked him to come by and take a look at a small amount of storm damage. Compared to the tens of thousands who had lost their homes, cars, and other life-changing experiences, the repairs seemed relatively modest.

“I know it’s a small job compared to helping a family back into their home, but let me know when you can get to us,” I had said.

Small things are big things in life. And he’s right, we never really know how important what we say, do, or promise to another. And many times, we don’t know until we’ve followed through with our commitment.

We all know this from experience from us being on the receiving end of the equation. Could be taking our car in for an oil change and finding an oil smudge on the carpet afterward. Or maybe a painter leaving behind paint drips on the driveway after painting the garage. These details, while seemingly small, tend to remain – festering into frustration or hard feelings. We never feel that same after discovering the smallest of details were not big enough to matter to someone we’d trusted.

Which is exactly why the best experiences are those where we are made to feel as if the time has stopped and we are the most important person in the world. And most times it is the smallest of details that make us feel whole. For example, I remember how I felt getting my car back from a routine service only to discover the dealership ran my car through the car wash for me. Imagine how I felt. A small detail led to a big feeling inside of me. And to this day, I confidently recommend them to my friends.

Small details have a way of becoming big details. And through them, the opportunity for us to impact the world around us is easily within reach. We should remember my friend’s words and make sure to deliver the unexpected, to over deliver, and to remember, you never know when the smallest of details – or words – can be the biggest indicator of how you value others.

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Guns and Monsters Lead to Questions

During my high school days, students brought guns to school without a second thought. Earlier this week students at my old high school in the Missouri walked out of classrooms in a plea against gun violence. What a difference a generation or two can make.

I’m not here to offer solutions or argue one way or the other. Rather I am painfully wondering what has changed since I last walked the grounds of the campus and why these violent actions are occurring against students.

As students we cobbled together wooden gun racks as part of the required shop class curriculum. Outside in the parking lot hunting rifles hung in the windows of old pick up trucks. Guns were simply a part of the social fabric of our world.

My high school was not in the sticks. My school sat squarely in the middle of a middle class suburb in a middle class city in the middle of the country. Norman Rockwell would have been right at home.

But life and attitudes towards guns were different from today’s world. Walking past a truck with a rifle hanging in the window symbolized deer season. The rifle being used as a weapon against a student never crossed my mind.

The recent deaths of 17 students in Florida reflect something is significantly different in the world today.

The helicopter shot video clip above the school this week showed nearly 700 students standing on the same outdoor rubber track I’d competed in the 440 and 800 in high school. Standing side by side and holding hands, I couldn’t help but feel closer to the event. In an unexpected way, this brought their angst and me closer.

Guns are dangerous – but I knew that walking by an old pickup truck on my way to a morning class. Yes, the AR versions are much more lethal, but which weapon is the real danger – the gun or the mind? Beside the given incredibly high value of life, what is the difference between 17 students shot with an AR and that of 4 with a less rapid-fire model? Both are tragic results but both point to something principally different in today’s world.

My wife learned to shot a pistol at cans in a quarry before she graduated the first grade. And her older brothers, all skilled shooters, drilled into her the responsibility and respect she should always show to a gun. Teaching and passing along the respect for guns in her family was an important rite of passage. To this day she carries this with her.

Which brings me back to my original question of what has changed? Is this a sign of the intoxicating draw and access to high firepower or the declining state of mental health or other another cultural / behavioral change?

I don’t pretend to know the answer. But what I do know is 700 students who share hallways of my former high school are genuinely scared of a monster – one who did not exist in my generation. Let’s find the true monster.

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Waitress Delivers Time Travel

“My boyfriend’s a skater,” said the waitress.

She’s old enough to carry an AARP card, wears her blonde hair tied behind her head, and her smile is one of a teenager in love.

You never know what you’ll find when you pick at a random string hanging from the universe. This day is no different.

Sitting in a small diner a block off the Pacific Ocean along the 101 in Southern California, I’d asked the waitress about the skateboarding stickers covering her black order pad. I knew the names well.

“Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but sometimes when we are at a skatepark someone will ask which one is mine – I’ll point to the old guy and say the big one out there.”

When I was fifteen years old I dreamed of skating the asphalt hills rolling out to meet the ocean along the Southern California coast. Posters and random pages were torn from skateboard magazines replaced the kid’s wallpaper in my bedroom. The names of skaters, Jay Adams to Tony Alva – the notorious Z-Boys, were my heroes.

“Who is your boyfriend?” said a voice from the next booth. He could easily pass for the parent coach of a youth traveling soccer team.

She sheepishly shares his name.

“No way. That’s sick.”

The next booth joins our conversation proving that even in Southern California, a small roadside diner operates as under the same community conversation rules as one in Topeka, Kansas.

Our new friend in the next booth, he in his forties, knew the skater’s name instantly.

The waitress tells us about how her boyfriend traveled the world touring and is talking about building a new wooden ramp with some friends.

“He is pissed at the city’s skatepark,” she said. “Not enough vert.”

She tells us about how one day he came home stomping and sulking like a little kid.

“He’d jumped the fence when the park was under construction. He wanted to test it out since he’d helped design it with them. Found the city had made the vert only 8 feet instead of ten like they said they would. It was like living with a ten-year-old for an entire week.”

She laughed.

“When he told me he’d jumped the fence I was like, dude, how old are you?”

Our conversation, the one including our new friend in the next booth, turns to a local skateboarding shop down the street.

“McGill’s skateshop is just down the road,” she said. “Most legit shop around.”

The guy in the next booth speaks up.

“Yeah, he invented the McTwist, right?”

The waitress nods her head.

The coffee tastes a little better sitting here in the epicenter of skateboarding universe.

My fish tacos arrive. The waitress gets called away to another booth, her black notepad in tow. The veil on the universe begins to drop, returning us all to our adult lives. But for a moment, for all of us, we were nothing but a bunch of skate rats trading stories in paradise.

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