Today I was telling my water aerobics friend about another of my students who had just sold the movie option rights to her book. My friend said, “You must be very proud of her.”
I said, “I am. I’m proud of so many of my students, the choices they’ve made and the lives they lead.” I feel like a big sister, a good friend, an auntie, a mother or a grandmother to so many of them. If you teach, you can’t help loving.
My friend sighed, and said, “You did BIG things with your life. All I did was little things.”
I’d never looked at it that way because I’d always thought I’d done little things, gauged by the BIG things other people had accomplished.
Then I thought back to when I had to turn my gut feeling and an ugly truth into action. That is the most difficult thing for me to do in my life because I want my actions to be the right thing to do according to the situation. It’s always been hard for me to make a decision and act on it. To act, you have to believe in yourself. You can talk to friends until they are sick of seeing you coming, but nothing changes unless you take the action.
I needed to divorce my husband and I needed custody of my son because too much damage had been done already.
My father-in-law’s attorney, the only one I knew, said he couldn’t help me but he knew an attorney who could, and he took me to the other’s office. The attorney listened to my story, so difficult for me to tell, and he believed me. What’s more, he believed IN me. That “little” thing was the one thing I needed.
As life unfolded before I left that town, friends and other professionals came to me and told me how glad they were I had taken the action I had. My friends said they hadn’t felt they could say what they knew because what I did had to be my choice, although one of my friends did spur an investigation I learned later. The professionals kept quiet because my father-in-law was an important, powerful man in that little town, but they all knew of the depravity in which my step-children, child, and I lived. Once I acted, these townspeople felt free then to comment how glad they were I had escaped. I felt free and my son and I fled to another life.
When we are in a world of hurt, sometimes all we need is one “little” thing to escape, just one person to affirm and validate us. I tried to be that person for my students. I try to be that person for the people in my life today.
I told my friend that she may see the things she does as little things, like daily checking on a 90-year old neighbor, or taking care of a friend’s dog, or mediating in a dispute. But to the people she helps, that little action is a BIG thing.
Little things add up to something huge. Usually they cost nothing but time and love. They cause a tide of goodness and kindness. It’s the little things that facilitate the big things. If you do the little things right, you change the world into a better place to be.