I believe in the importance of attending to the little details that make up my days.
When I was in college, a Pakistani friend once shared a quote with me that reflects his culture’s philosophy of human life: “I am nothing but a speck of dust in the universe.” Those words humbled me to the core. I visualized how infinitesimally small I was in the big picture – like a microorganism in a drop of water I had viewed through a microscope. The universe was a theater so vast with a cast so huge that if I stumbled and forgot my lines in the drama of life, no one would ever notice.
My friend’s words come back to me to lend a sense of perspective at crucial moments when I get too caught up in the details of my “own little world.” Nevertheless, I believe that the cumulative effect of how I deal with life’s little details can make my speck of dust a contribution to the enrichment of humanity’s soil – a kind of humanitarian compost, if you will.
I believe that when I turn off the tap while brushing my teeth, teach my students to use the Spanish preterite and imperfect tenses correctly, recycle paper, plastic, glass and metal, love my children for who they are, buy produce from local farmers, return borrowed books to the library on time, and talk to a lonely neighbor, I am modestly but steadily making my speck of dust part of a fertile patch where future life can continue to flourish.
When I am lying in bed at night, worrying about how I will get through tomorrow’s trials while I mentally review today’s, I sometimes lie on my side and look out of the window at the night sky. There in the vast darkness, I note the tiny sparks of distant stars. I am reminded again of my insignificance within the boundless expanse of time and space. I think of all the millions of specks populating our earth, each one of us struggling through our existence. Feeling tired and uncertain, I start wondering why it matters to me to get my son to eat breakfast, and to write those detailed comments on my students’ first drafts. Does all my attention to details really matter?
Recently, my young daughter and her friend tried to save a baby robin that had fallen from its nest. They did what they could to care for it and protect it from harm, but it died on the second day of their vigil. The s cried, then made a little grave for the bird and covered it with flowers. “You did the right thing,” I told them. They couldn’t save the robin, but they followed their instincts which told them that the little bird’s life mattered and was worth their efforts to preserve it and respect it.
I believe in the importance of the little moments that life offers up every day. The significance of my life can be found in how I choose to handle each of my daily opportunities and challenges. Yes, I believe that my multitude of tiny efforts can and does change the world.
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