One of my core beliefs is that bigger isn’t better. I like minutes better than years, inches better than miles, and people better than populations.
As a four-year-old, I was the sort of kid who lay in bed at night terrified about “forever” because it was so big, I couldn’t fit it in my head. My dad had to find little ways to distract me from focusing on eternity. He’d give me something small to think about every night, a mental magnifying glass to keep me from seeing the big picture. I still don’t like to see time stretching out before and after me—birth, school, work, death–but I can find pleasure in the small moments of every day. This morning I went on a bike ride, drank a cup of spiced tea, and took a shower at just the right temperature. Little increments like that fit nicely in my head.
Some part of me is still a four-year-old trying to understand how time can be so much bigger than those moments, but most of me is now a twenty-year-old. The sort of twenty-year-old who has two magnifying glasses in the upper right hand drawer of her desk to look at the little things but doesn’t own a telescope to see the big ones. The sort who takes lots of close-up photographs but very few panoramic ones because she believes tiny details are worth noticing.
Somewhere in between four and twenty I heard an inspirational quote from Josef Stalin. Granted, Stalin should not generally serve as a source of inspiration, but he was right when he said, “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” It is that sort of turning people into numbers that I want to avoid. I would rather focus on a few individuals than on 6.5 billion of them. I believe in praying for people by name and loving those within my small world. Yes, there are a whole lot of children starving in Africa and yes my heart aches for them, but I can’t afford to jump on a plane a go feed them. I can afford to help my mom with dinner tomorrow
So maybe I’ll never understand calendars, maps, or population charts because I think they show too much at once. But I will always believe in thinking small, in spending one day in one place getting to know one person. I’ll always keep my magnifying glasses handy because this, I believe—that it’s more tragic to miss the tree for the forest than the other way around.
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