John Wooden, basketball and life coach
Sometimes people get lost trying to make a big splash when dipping their toe in the water is the most satisfying thing they could do. Kids may know this instinctively while adults think too much or not enough.
Yesterday, at her three-year-birthday party, my granddaughter ran up behind me, wrapped her arms around my right leg and squeezed me tight with all her little might. She held it for a while as I rubbed the top of her head, then she ran off. There was a houseful of people and distractions but she took time to show me some love. My heart is still singing!
I just read a story about a mother with an infant and a three-year-old daughter traveling by air. The baby was crying and the little girl wanted to get off the plane because she was unsure about the whole thing. An older man traveling alone offered to hold the baby while the mother tried to settle in during the boarding process. During the flight, he entertained the three-year-old reading her books and showing her things out the window. She kissed his shoulder while looking at the clouds below and he held her hand when they departed the plane. He didn’t have to do that. Other passengers on board may have been upset that there would be a crying baby and screaming kid on the flight. He thought about them, not himself.
I was at a wedding this past weekend. An elderly aunt of the groom who had suffered a stroke a couple of years ago was attended to by a young man about twenty-one years old. They weren’t very close, but he took it upon himself to hold her when she walked and asked her if she needed anything while at the reception. I didn’t need to know anything else to like him.
Most two-year-old boys are entranced by firetrucks as is my grandson, Ryan. At a mall one day Ryan and I were leaving but a firetruck was parked just outside the exit. Ryan’s eyes got big and he immediately found a doormat outside a restaurant entrance and sat down to observe. A young fireman saw him sitting there and went into the firetruck, coming out with a shiny, red plastic fireman's hat. He brought it over to Ryan and put it on his head. Ryan was smiling ear to ear. (See short video below) It wasn’t a huge act of kindness; it was a simple thing - a thing that happened because the young fireman noticed – and cared.
As an eight-year-old, my mom took me ice skating one day at an old edifice in St. Louis called the Winter Garden. I had never ice skated before and needless to say, I was quite wobbly on my skates. My first trip around was spent holding tight to the rails as my legs flopped around like a newborn giraffe. It was the same on my second and third trips around the rink. Eventually, I let go of the railing and traveled maybe two feet, then five, then a few falls later, maybe one-eighth around the building, swinging my arms wildly but staying upright. There were a few rows of stands around the Winter Garden, where a hockey team once played. At the end of our skating session we were walking out when a couple in the stands called out to me and said, “We were watching you and you did great!” It’s been sixty years ago now and I still remember how proud I was that they noticed and complimented me. It was a little thing with a big impact.
Forty years after that incident, young Swedish kids told my wife and me in English that we “were doing just fine”, as we laid buried in four feet of snow with one ski pointing to the sky and the other laying perpendicular. We were novice skiers trying our best during a brief visit to Sweden while traveling for business. They were so, very kind as they zoomed by us like short little rockets. Maybe ten to twelve years old, these kids did not make fun of us – they encouraged us.
Little things can mean more than big things!
A smile means more to me than a belly laugh. A look in the eye can say more than novel. A hug can mean more than any words. When someone picks up your hat as you get up from a fall, it is a small but thoughtful gesture. A pat on the back can be just the right inspiration for someone to do great things, or little things for others.
To do ‘little things’, you must have some awareness and be caring. You need to be in the present moment to notice and have compassion for others to bother. It often comes down to getting off your high horse and putting your feet on the ground. One must look past their nose and open their eyes to the micro-moments that can make the day of someone with hardly any effort from yourself. ‘Getting’ can be exciting, coming with a rush but often quickly becoming commonplace. ‘Giving’, however, may or may not come with a rush but it is uplifting for the soul and remains so for a long time. That’s what makes a parent tick - giving unselfishly to a child while wanting nothing in return but the happiness of that child.
Some ‘little things’
- Open the door for someone
- Let a car merge in front of you
- Smile at the person behind the counter
- Bend down to talk to a child
- Leave a good tip to a good waiter
- Go to your neighbor kid’s ballgame and cheer
- Listen to others when they talk
- Say thank you as if you really mean it- with a nod
- Dance with someone who has no partner
You’ll never know when a small act of kindness by you will be remembered decades later by the person you gave that kindness to. They may not remember you but they will pass on the kindness for how it made them feel. I’ve had people tell me about the great and wonderful things they have done. Never has that ever impressed me like a small kindness done in complete thoughtfulness for someone else with no one watching.
“If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”
William H. McRaven, retired Navy Four Star Admiral