I’ve always been intrigued by the little things. The seemingly insignificant acts that you might not notice unless you were looking for them. Too many folks (myself included) get so caught up in grand gestures that we forget about the importance of small ones. I started thinking about this last weekend after watching The Fault in Our Stars. When Gus is lamenting his lack of living a “special” life, Hazel replied:
You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you.
Gus, like so many of us, assumed that if he hadn’t cured cancer (irony, I know), played at Carnegie Hall, written the Great American Novel, saved thirty children from a burning school bus, and achieved worldwide fame that his life was somehow less-than. That in order to be fulfilled or to be memorable, he needed to perform colossal, earth-shattering deeds. And he didn’t. After he realized he didn’t have to be perfect, he was content with being great.
Any of this sound familiar? I know it does to me.
I think that the path to contentment starts when (1) you realize that great things can be small things, and (2) you understand that you don’t always have to come first. You don’t have to receive anything in return in order to do something nice. Sometimes, the best you’ll feel, the most important you’ll feel, is when you do something for someone else, simply because you thought it should be done, with nothing in return. Maybe not even with recognition. And the quickest way to discontentment is to believe that it’s only about yourself, and the quest to have more of everything — more money, more followers, more friends, etc. No matter how enticing more may be, it’s never fulfilling.
I truly believe that all it takes to be special is to be kind. You don’t have to be magnificent to be magnanimous. Like Hazel implied, being special to someone else is important. Helping someone else is important. Simply being someone is important. You don’t have to have extraordinary accomplishments to be an extraordinary person. All you have to be is kind. Just be kind. In his novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—: “‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
One rule: god damn it, you’ve got to be kind.
photo credit: dale benfield
How can you be kind today?
- Recycle. Ditch a straw. Have a meatless meal. Be kind to your animal pals and your earth.
- Let someone cut in front of you at the checkout line. Bonus points if he/she has a gaggle of kids and looks frazzled.
- Send a little note (email or by suggestion box) about someone who was especially great at their job. I had an encounter with a PA in a doctor’s office a few days ago that made me want to write a sonnet about her to her boss. Businesses get so many shitty reviews. When you get a good one, make that known too.
- Let a stranger in the suicide lane into yours without calling him an asshole. We’re all just trying to make it from one place to another.
- If you have roommates: empty the dishwasher/fold their laundry.
- Smile at someone you pass without expecting a smile back. And for God’s sake, if your recipient is a woman, do not tell her to smile.
- Give a random compliment. I can vividly remember having an awful day, and a woman I’d never met in my huge office told me she loved me shoes, and it pepped me up enough to get through the day.
- Leave a note on your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s windshield. Because that cute and I love those little surprises.
- Leave some dollars or coins by your office’s vending machine.
- If you’re leaving when it’s raining and have nowhere else to go, give your umbrella to someone who needs it.
Little things, babies. It truly is all about little things. One foot in front of the other, watching out for one another. God damn it, just be kind.