Don't sweat the small stuff, the saying goes, but I disagree. After all, it's the little things that make the biggest differences in people's lives.
That sentiment was inspired by a recent trip back to western New York to visit my alma mater. A friend and teammate from the track team was being inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame, and since I hadn't been back to campus since I graduated in 1995, and hadn't seen my friend in about 10 years, I decided it would be a good time to catch up.
There's a special kind of energy on a college campus, and it was rejuvenating to be a part of that, even for just a weekend. I was able to catch up with a former teammate from the school soccer team who is now the head coach. We laughed about the dumb stuff we did in college, and the irony that he who happened to be responsible for the letter of discipline in my file was now leading the program.
I caught up with my track coach, who remembers more of the little details about my college career than I do. I chatted with the school president and quite a few alumni, all of whom shared an Alaska story when they found out from where I was visiting. I answered the big three of Alaska questions how far, how cold, how dark countless times.
We reminisced about the hours we spent running up the various hills around campus as part of our workouts. We vowed to go pry up a plank or two from the old wooden indoor track on which we trained.
Mostly, we talked about small stuff. My soccer buddy said the thing he remembers most about me happened during a practice session when I took a very hard shot from very close range. My shot hit the post and came right back at me in what turned out to be a very unfortunate and apparently, hilarious ricochet. It was something I didn't recall; I guess I must have repressed the memory of that particularly painful moment
When it came time for the formal induction ceremony, my friend, Glenn, surprised me with his speech. He never mentioned races won or records set. Instead, he reflected on the little things that made those big things possible: a buddy who woke him up every morning at 6 a.m. to hit the gym, a coach who made the most of limited resources, and a teammate who had once lent him a pair of track spikes.
I had forgotten about loaning Glenn my spikes on occasion. I never thought of it as a big deal; he needed a pair and I said, "Sure, borrow mine." As I recall, the only time it caused a problem was when our coach put us on the same relay team.
To Glenn, it meant a lot. He didn't have any extra money to buy a pair at the time, and things going on at home made him reluctant to ask for money there. It was a little thing that made a big difference in his life.
After the banquet, we wandered down to one of the bars in town and talked about more little stuff family, work, balancing the two, and wondering how our parents, who said nothing but "no" when we were growing up, seemed to have dropped the word from their vocabulary when they became grandparents in other words, small talk.
When you think about it, all those accomplishments we consider great are simply a series of little things. Glenn went on to become an NCAA Division III national champion hurdler; he did it not in one great stride, but through countless hours of drilling until every step was perfect.
Since my trip, I'd like to think I've been more aware of the little things people do for each other, like a driver waving a pedestrian across a crosswalk, a stranger holding the door when you've got your hands full, or one of our reporters making a couple extra calls to make sure we get the best story we can.
Sure, those are little things, but they make a big difference.
This column is the opinion of Clarion city editor Will Morrow. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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