I suspect most mothers have a few words or phrases they repeatedly toss out from the pages of their childrearing playbook. Early on as toddlers, “please” and “thank you” were coaxed out of us anytime someone gave us something. The cue from mom was always, “What do you say?” The goal was to embed the proper response in our brain, enough so that “pleases” and thank yous” rolled out of our lips as instinctively as Pavlov’s dog salivated when a bell was rung. My mother must have done the job well since I have spent my entire life expressing my gratitude to anyone who does something on my behalf, no matter how inconsequential. If the mailman were to hand me a stack of bills I’d no doubt issue him a verbal “thank you!”
But it was one of my mother’s more profound phrases that lives on, forever deeply instilled within one of the older, dustier vaults of my brain. And here I am today yet being confronted with it once more. Whenever and whatever it was appropriate to the circumstance, out it came…and still does: little things matter much! It’s a simple concept that has become a no-brainer to me. It came to mind today when a good friend and past colleague and I were discussing the hiring process we used to put people through. I told him if someone came to an interview without a pen I interpreted that as a person who did not pay attention to detail. He said likewise if a job candidate failed at the smaller tasks presented, it was likely he/she could not handle the bigger, more important ones.
Details can, indeed, come back to bite you in butt. But there have been times when I envy those who look at the big picture and don’t get lost in its elements. My brother, always my exact opposite, breezed through life with a “what, me worry?” attitude. I couldn’t handle living that way. I fret over everything and, as such, I have great anticipatory skills. I always foresee all the possibilities a project might present and I am rarely without a plan B…and sometimes even a C.
I have learned many times over that Mom was right–little things do matter much, but it can go both ways. Case in point, my son is currently on hand to help with chores I am not able to do as I slowly recover from a bad fall. He and I do not work well together at all. I need to be in control, always displaying exactly how I want things done. Why? Because years of experience have taught me how to avoid mistakes. But to my son, every LITTLE nudge, every LITTLE direction I offer is taken as MUCH like a bolder tossed at him by a compulsive dictator, a person whom, he says, he will never please. That little comment hurts much and, as a result, I find myself not asking him to do certain things that I can get around to doing myself later on as my recovery progresses.
The lesson I still, after all my years. have problems accepting is letting go sometimes. It means thinking about the little things is not always relegated to just the details, but to people as well. Another phrase comes to mind and that is, people like me would sometimes be better off if they’d stop making much ado about nothing.