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Little Things Matter

Little Things Matter

The devil is in the details, or God is in the details, depending on who you ask. Little things mean a lot. The things that sometimes we tend to overlook in favor of the big picture are often the things that make the picture big. Details matter.

Anyone can have a relationship with another human being, but it takes hard effort to make it work. One must learn to compromise and value the other persons values, sometimes ahead of one’s own. One must develop a thick skin and understand that things said in anger or in irritation don’t necessarily mean much. Maybe they are indicators of how that person really feels, but do they indicate something that is worth fighting over? Clearly one must use a clear head to consider such matters.

Da Queen and I have had what is by all accounts a good marriage but if anyone would say it’s easy, it’s because we make it look easy. The truth is, we irritate each other all the time. Sometimes we miscalculate the other’s mood; other times we get pissy and deliberately irritate the other or look to pick a fight. There are times I honestly don’t know what the hell I’m saying or doing and yet I say or do it anyway and afterwards I wonder if there’s some sort of alien parasite inside me, manipulating me to do and say things that I know are wrong. I think we all feel that way sometimes.

That’s why the ability to forgive the other’s transgressions becomes a big thing in any relationship. Even though your feelings are hurt, you just have to get past it and move on. There are times I’ve legitimately felt bad about what my wife has said to me in a moment of anger but I realize that it’s just a moment of anger. Occasionally, something leaks out that has to be addressed; when that happens it should be done as calmly and as rationally as possible. Of course, some couples need to fight things out – that works for them and it might work for you. Da Queen and I are far too sensitive for such things. We tend to work better when we’re discussing things as rationally as possible.

But it’s not just about the negatives; it’s about creating the positives. Taking the time to do things for the other indicates that they are important to you. They don’t have to be grand, expensive gestures. Little things can mean a lot; picking up her favorite snack when you’re at the store without being asked. Doing a chore around the house that she doesn’t expect. Making his favorite meal when he’s had a bad day. Things like that can make all the difference between a successful relationship and a failed one.

Making the effort can go a long way, even if you aren’t necessarily successful. There are times when my disability prevents me from finishing a chore around the house but my wife appreciates that I’m at least trying to help out. There are other times when she gets involved in a project that seems to take all her concentration – my Queen can be a bit obsessive about projects. That’s okay; I know that is just her nature and generally speaking her projects tend to be about good things, things that make us or other people happy. It’s hard to argue against that although there are times I have to gently remind her to take a step back. She’s the kind of person who needs to be mentally occupied at all times.

It’s not just your romantic relationship this should apply to; friends, family and colleagues should get the same consideration. How nice is it when someone brings a box of bagels into work unexpectedly, or when you’re invited over to a friend’s house for a night of movies and pizza? Isn’t it wonderful when you feel included and important? That’s a feeling you should pass on to others and FYI it’s the kind of thing that gets that feeling passed back to you more often.

However, this kind of behavior means that we have to think about others instead of just about ourselves. In fact, it means putting others above yourself. In this day and age where selfishness is encouraged and self-centeredness rewarded, that’s not an easy proposition to undertake. However, it is the right thing to do. It is the right way to be. It doesn’t mean you have to be Gandhi. It doesn’t mean you have to donate half your income to charity. It doesn’t even mean you have to spend hours you don’t have at the local soup kitchen. It just means you have to take a few moments out of your day to be considerate to others. It means occasionally thinking about what you can do to make others around you happy. Maybe it means spending twenty bucks at Dunkin Donuts. Maybe it means buying your wife flowers from a roadside stand on your way home from work despite there being no occasion to do so. Maybe it means just means making a list of DVDs you’re getting ready to sell and letting your friends pick and choose the ones they want first and then giving them to them.

I personally think if we all did just one considerate thing a week – just one – the amount of good it would do would be amazing. Can you imagine what America would be like if everybody committed to doing one considerate thing a week for others? Maybe people would be less stressed because there’s a constant barrage of considerate things coming their way. Maybe the divorce rate would go down because couples are feeling more appreciated within their relationship. Maybe this country would end up being a better place to live in.

Clearly that’s a best case scenario and likely getting the world to change is pretty much like trying to get the sky to turn purple but why not try? Our actions are solely within our own control and nobody else’s. If we all made that commitment who knows where it would lead? Wouldn’t it be great if we at least tried?

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Common Threads

We are more like than unalike. We have so much in common that we actually take it for granted. We dwell instead on cultural differences, lifestyle differences, gender differences. We spend more time looking for the things that divide us than we do celebrating the things that unite us.

I suppose that’s only human. We have a need to feel unique and we look for ways that emphasize our uniqueness. Unfortunately, we tend to do that the lazy way – by asserting that those who are different than us are inferior, making us feel better about ourselves and our many faults.

Being unique doesn’t make us better. It just makes us ourselves. We’re not perfect – but we don’t have to be. Honestly, it’s okay to be flawed. You’re overweight? That’s okay – just try to eat better and exercise more. You’re a terrible housekeeper? No problem – hire somebody or just do the best you can. No time management skills? You can always take a class or find methods on the internet to help you organize your time better.

But even if you don’t ever correct your flaws that doesn’t make you a bad or even a weak person. It just makes you a human. And that’s one thing we all have in common – our humanity, both good and bad. We have a tremendous capacity to do horrible things to one another – and an equally tremendous capacity to transcend those base instincts and do the right thing, or even better.

The genocide in Rwanda is one such example. On the one hand, horrible atrocities were committed and thousands upon thousands of lives were brutally lost. On the other hand, the Rwandans are now trying to unite, reconcile and forgive one another. They are looking to live as one people rather than two artificially constructed tribes. They share a common language and a common heritage. More importantly, they share their basic human values – they love their families, hope for a better future and want to be loved.

We all share those values, even those we despise. The 1% share those things. Racists share those things. Homophobes share those things. Now, there are always exceptions; certain sociopaths lack the ability to love, the desire to be loved and have instead a desire to inflict pain. Those are not the rule, however and they are pretty rare.

Our humanity stretches across cultural lines. We all value our children and take great steps to protect them. That’s true in the most primitive circumstances as well as the most sophisticated urban environments. It doesn’t matter your skin tone or which plumbing you have, nor which religion you observe (if any) or what political party you belong to. Push comes to shove, nearly every human being alive will do about anything to protect their children, even lay down their lives if need be.

So why is it when we have so much in common that we spend so much time trying to tear each other apart? Not just in this country but everywhere? Why can Arabs and Jews find any common ground? Why not gays and straights? Baptists and Atheists? Why must we find reasons to ridicule, to fear, to hate? Why is accepting the differences of others so bloody hard?

Because we have it in our minds that accepting the differences of someone else makes us somehow less important, less special. That’s a mistaken concept however; accepting those differences makes us more special. It gives us more importance in the cosmic scheme of things. It brings us closer to perfection. If someone is a black lesbian Atheist pro-Choice from Senegal, I believe that in the heart of the creator I believe in they are no less loved than a pro-Life Baptist housewife from Texas. And vice versa. Those who disagree with me, are different than me, are even repugnant to me are still as human as me. As long as they do no harm, they deserve all the respect and dignity that I can afford them.

Delivering on that idea is often difficult and I’m no more adept at it than most of you. Sometimes, I gnash my teeth when I hear Sarah Palin talk about the need for drilling, or the President of Iran shouting about how America is Satanic. There are times I find it hard to hold to my heart those who discriminate against women, gays, African-Americans or Jews.

But if God loves these people no less, doesn’t following that example please Him? There are lots of people who say “Love the sinner, hate the sin” and while we might quibble whether homosexuality is a sin or not, the sentiment is at least understandable although it’s very difficult for me to hate the sin. Loving the person while not condoning their actions is easier for me to wrap my head and heart around and that’s where I tend to be more successful.

I may consider Rush Limbaugh to be a lot of things and I disagree with his politics and most of his opinions whole-heartedly but I don’t hate the man and I certainly don’t think he shouldn’t have the right to air his opinions. After all, you have the right to change the channel if you don’t like what he has to say and sooner or later if enough people do that he will have to find other means to communicate his message. I also consider Bill Maher to be a lot of things and I agree with his politics and most of his opinions whole-heartedly, but on a human level I give Rush Limbaugh the same consideration and respect I give Bill Maher, even if I think Maher is smarter and his politics more closely align with mine. That’s because at the end of the day Bill Maher is no better and no worse than Rush Limbaugh, the same as George W. Bush is no better and no worse than Barack Obama or my Uncle Jerry is no better and no worse than my Uncle Alex.

We are all made up of the same chemical components, the same physiological structure. We all travel through time in a linear fashion, from the beginning of lives to their ends and we all hope and dream of something better or at least different. We all reach out in some way for the things we need, be they other people or solitude. We all walk the Earth – some in wheelchairs, some in scooters but we all travel this land in some fashion. We all laugh, cry, despair and hope. We all have the capacity for love and for forgiveness as well as for hate and for vengeance. We all have the ability to choose the right thing, although we don’t always do it.

We all are one species, given one lifetime to figure things out. How much better would this world be if one of the things we figured out was just that? What could we accomplish as a people if we spent more time helping each other instead of finding reasons to hate? There is a dream worth aspiring to, one voiced by many of our most revered and beloved people, from Martin Luther King to Gandhi to Christ. A dream where we live together not in suspicion, fear and hatred but in acceptance, love and tolerance. Rodney King may not be the kind of thinker those men are but he may have put it the most articulately; can’t we all just get along? Well, can’t we?