By: Mr. Lu
It’s the Little Things
We were marvelling at statistics. During an exercise in class, we calculated attendance rates by adding excused and unexcused absences and dividing by total classes. At a busy school likes ours, it’s understandable to be in the fifteen percent range. Indeed, some were, while students like Crystal and Steven came well below. Others reached spectacularly high numbers, hovering at almost forty percent. I was bewildered and disappointed, and much discussion ensued. A little later, while talking with Heather and Caitlin, they flashed their low number, with an even more impressive zero unexcused absences. They have never missed a class this year without a legitimate reason. “It’s the little things,” I thought, “that make the big things.”
If you ask around long enough, you’ll discover there’s a WPGA Instagram meme page. One of the memes involving a teacher facing a bear. The bear represented a hoodie, and the teacher couldn’t teach because of it. I’m not wading into the great hoodie debate here, but the idea of ignoring the little things doesn’t sit right with me. I think it is in the everyday ordinary, the measure and discipline to do things right, no matter how small, that create the small building blocks to greater character.
It is in the boring, in the unnoticed routine, such as attending class or wearing uniform, that you find the deeper giving of self, rather than the much applauded resume-building special event. The excellence in the little things makes you who you are.
The ultimate little thing is the relationship. The daily little interactions of building understanding, trust, and give-and-take raises our community. The skipping and the hoodies can be met easier with empathy, with the elimination of “they”, with deliberate patience to connect with each other rather than apathy and stereotypes, entitled self-interest, or mindless protest.
Activist Shane Claiborne lives in inner city Philadelphia, and he had this to say, “Not too long ago, I was speaking at Princeton, and some of the students asked me how they were to choose which issue of social justice is the most important. The question made me cringe. Issues? These issues have faces. We’re talking not only about ideas but also about human emergencies. My response to the well-intentioned Princeton students was, ‘Don’t choose issues; choose people. Come play in the fire hydrants in North Philly. Fall in love with a group of people who are marginalized and suffering, and then you won’t have to worry about which cause you need to protest. Then the issues will choose you.’”
The little things make the big things. I’m sure Heather, Caitlin, Steven and Crystal would agree.