Grand gestures are pretty cool – the elaborate wedding proposal, the 5 carat diamond engagement ring, the 500-person guest list wedding, the gigantic new house, the snazzy new car, the blowout milestone birthday party – you get the idea. Grand gestures are amazing ways to mark the turning points in life. Sometimes we do them as a couple and then carry right on doing them for our kids with pony-ride 1st birthdays, 50-kid bouncy parties at age 10, new BMWs at 16, and trips to Europe for graduation. If you can afford them, all of these things are fun and exciting and make for lovely memories. But this post isn’t really about grand gestures, as fabulous as they are to recount and dream about. No. This post is about the everyday things, those things we call “little.”
The small things we do for one another, in all our relationships, are the things that keep them going. Things like holding your partner’s hand while you watch TV, or hugging your children before bed. Things like seeing the dishwasher needs to be emptied and then actually emptying it. Things like picking a few wildflowers on a hike with your girlfriend and handing them to her as you kiss her cheek. Things like bringing homemade chocolate chip cookies to your friend’s house when you go over for coffee. That stuff.
Those little things really boil down to being willing to give. Giving in little ways every single day adds up. And if you give a little here, and you give a little there, the people you’re giving to will be more likely to give in return. If they value you, they will see all the little ways you give every day. Maybe they will speak their appreciation. Maybe they will show their appreciation in their own little ways. And what happens then is that both parties are giving which means both parties are also RECEIVING. It’s an easy but delicate balance. And it requires some emotional astuteness to recognize.
You see, every now and then, you will come across someone who can’t see the little things you do. Or you might be the one who can’t see the little things someone else does for you. Sometimes people are only capable of grand gestures. And again, grand gestures are tons of fun, but if you don’t have the little things happening behind the scenes, the grand gestures lose their impact. What good is a trip to Europe if you won’t hold your partner’s hand while you’re there? What good is the pony-ride birthday for your baby if you’re so busy worrying about the decorations that you miss the smile on your child’s face when she gets that ride? Little things give grand gestures a deeper meaning.
I wasn’t always good at seeing little things, but I learned through a really fucked up situation how to focus on them. I had to make it a daily habit to count up those blessings to get me through each day for a while. And what happened is I became a collector of little things. I notice them all the time now. In fact, I look for them. That time you texted me “I got you” on that shitty, shitty day? That went in my Little Things Reserve. That enveloping, heartfelt hug you gave me at the coffee shop? It’s in there. That time you didn’t run away when I was flipping out about bullshit? In there. Last night, when you opened that dog food bag I was struggling with? It’s there too. All those things save me a little every single day. And you probably think nothing of them, friends. But they matter to me. Please know that.
Grand gestures absolutely have their place, and I enjoy them as much as the next person. But I think if you really, really reflect on what gets you through each day, you’ll see that it’s those small, delicious moments of genuine giving that make the biggest difference.
Watch for them.