Little Or Big… Which Is What?

“Enjoy the little things in life for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

~ Kurt Vonnegut

Tune in to the RAVE WAVES BlogTalkRadio show, ASPIRE TO INSPIRE where this post is the topic of a lively discussion. This is a production of Rave Reviews Book Club.

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Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., (1922-2007) was an American author who, in just over fifty years, published numerous novels, short story collections, plays and works of non-fiction. His most famous novel was Slaughterhouse-Five – published in 1969. After his death, he was remembered as one of America’s most important contemporary writers and as a morbidly comical commentator on American society.

Here’s a quote where it would have been helpful to know the context in which these words were written or spoken. Undoubtedly, the little things as Vonnegut puts it, will mean something different to everyone who thinks about it. I tend to think about the daily happenings – the routine types of things to which we might not give a lot of thought. Perhaps that includes, preparing a meal, cleaning up afterward, shovelling the driveway, mowing the lawn and a myriad of other household tasks that we perform. It could mean a simple outing to the grocery store or to pick up a coffee. And, as I think about it, these daily activities involve interactions with family and friends. The same would apply to routines at our workplace, I would think. None of these things takes a lot of planning and usually doesn’t require a significant emotional investment.

So, how is it that these little things are really the big things in our lives? Two ideas occurred to me as I pondered this question. On the one hand, I thought about tasks that we give little thought to and take for granted our physical ability to perform them. This reality is well understood by anyone who has suffered a major injury that severely curtails their mobility. Until that has healed, one has to rely on others to complete their tasks for them. This inability is no small psychological burden.

I recall, on the 5th of July, 1980, falling one story onto my paved driveway when the unsecured ladder I was climbing down, slid out from under me. I landed on my left forearm, snapping both bones in half. The fall also caused severe bruising of my other arm – so for a few weeks, after I was released from hospital, I could do very little independently. I could walk, but I couldn’t drive until my bruised right arm healed sufficiently. Sleeping with a cast on my left arm for eight weeks was also a challenge. I’ll always remember the day that cast came off and I’d be able to straighten out my left arm… except… I couldn’t. I had to work at that for a few more days, and when I could finally move it normally, it was a grand day indeed. I remember the joy I felt when I could finally do the little things by myself. Yes, joy. Those things weren’t so little after all.

As well, our routines at home and at our place of work do involve other people, unless you are a total recluse. These people at home are our family members – our loved ones. Sitting down for a few minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee with my wife is something I often do at mid-morning, now that we are both retired. It’s just a little thing, after all… and yet, if that person disappears from your life, suddenly; I”m sure that morning cup of coffee would become a big thing. It may well evoke a painful sense of loss as well as some lovely memories of stories swapped and laughter shared.

In the same way, many of us make and receive daily phone calls from dear friends and/or loved ones who are close to us. There is a need to remain in contact often so as not to lose that level of intimacy. Yet how often are those conversations about major issues being experienced by one or the other? Most likely, the overwhelming number of those calls are about inconsequential things – like sharing a bit of news about other family members or mutual friends, funny stories and the like. These calls are valued, certainly, but how many would we classify among the big things in our lives.

Vonnegut is telling us that these are really the big things in our lives. I believe that the measure of a person is in their daily living. It is manifested in how they live their lives. Do I go about my daily tasks with a song in my heart and a smile upon my lips, or do I consider these things just boring routines that I must bear until I can experience the excitement of that party I’m anticipating? Am I thankful to God that I am able to do exactly the kinds of things that are important to me every day without relying on the kindness of another person to assist me? Do I truly treasure the daily contacts I have in person, by phone, or on the Internet?

Here’s one more question which also goes to the heart of Vonnegut’s message. In our daily activities, when alone and with others, are we truly present in the moment? I know that there are times that I get lost in thought about other things and drift through a task without giving it much thought. Have you ever driven somewhere, only to arrive not remembering the trip? Not only is that unsettling from a safety perspective, but it also means that I was not focused on living those moments fully. In effect, they are moments lost. In my sixth decade, I’m painfully aware that my daily contacts with those I care about will end some day, and I know that I cannot afford to lose any moments of my life… because those are numbered. For his reminder about the important things in life, I thank Mr. Kurt Vonnegut.

 

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Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

14 thoughts on “Little Or Big… Which Is What?”

  1. Let me tell you something John. The little things of life can also be like when my teeth were all working, and my knees were so strong, I never thought they will ever let me down. I could crack a bottle open with my teeth, and hop and jump. Now, i know better. I should have started early to take care of my teeth and my knees. Today, I can only eat my most delicious chewable by committing lookery (looking at them). That’s what my grand-kids call it. As for jumping and hopping, I only dream of those these days. 🙂

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  2. Little things do mean a lot – and yes drinking coffee/tea is one thing that’s totally different when the other person’s not around anymore (there’s only you to make it for one thing! 😉 ) – I do miss that a lot.

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  3. Another terrific post, John! The little things really are the prized gems. Thanks so much for sharing.

    In 1992, I was in a car accident and sustained a spinal cord injury (C5 & C6). Life changed in an instant; the injury caused paralysis from my neck down. I’ve made a significant recovery since then, but I still require a crutch for mobility. It’s been almost 24 years and I can honestly say I miss the little things the most. The loss of independence is tough indeed.

    I always enjoy your posts. Thanks again. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Natalie – and for sharing your story with us. Wow… 24 years later and still coping with the back injury. The loss of independence is huge… I remember the tears in her eyes when Aunt Aggie handed me the keys to her car. She hated being dependent on anyone to drive her around. Thanks for your kind words!

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      1. It’s amazing how many things we often take for granted until they are gone. I was only 18 years old at the time and didn’t fully appreciate all the blessings in my life until that fateful day. Time with family has a much deeper meaning now. I love that I notice all the little things now and always give thanks for them.

        A little story…driving with the music on is one of my favourite things to do. It really is. About 8 months after the accident I had to undergo extensive tests to determine if I was capable of driving. I had my licence for a little over a year at the time. I passed the tests and we sure celebrated! It was a victory back then, and I never take it for granted now.

        I can understand your Aunt’s tears. Having a licence to drive is a golden ticket in my mind.

        I can appreciate your injury (yicks!) and the adjusting/adapting process that followed. And my gosh…I shouldn’t assume, but I imagine seeing your daughter’s reaction holds its vivid details more so than the fall itself.

        Thanks again for sharing. 🙂

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  4. I can’t imagine how horrible that fall must have been. I cringed just reading about it!

    A wonderful post to remind us to slow down and appreciate all life has to offer. Thanks for another inspiring post, John! 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Mae. I left out the part where my 5-year-old daughter heard my yell, left the breakfast table to run outside and then knelt beside me, “Daddy, are you alive?” That really shook me up! Quite a day, and fortunately, I survived that “storm”. I’m glad you stopped by and left this comment!

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    2. Natalie, I’m so sorry to hear of your accident. It’s amazing what you must have overcome. John’s post certainly is inspiring. More so when I read stories like yours and realize how other persevere. Wishing you continued healing!

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