All the Small Things

Travis Barker and Tom DeLonge of blink-182 wrote a song called “All the Small Things,” which includes these words:

All the small things

True care, truth brings…

She left me roses by the stairs,

Surprises, let me know she cares

I love that song because it reminds me that I don’t have to do big, impressive things to make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes it is the small things, consistently done over time, that best communicate that we care.

A recent study indicates the 50 top ways to show someone you care are all remarkably simple. A spontaneous hug, giving a compliment, and saying, “I love you” all feature in the top 10, which suggests that it’s often gestures that require the smallest effort that have the biggest impact.

Why is this true?

I’m sure there are lots of reasons that explain the complex responses we have to what others do, but I have some theories:

Consistent, simple gestures communicate that the other person is on your mind and heart. We all have someone (or if we’re lucky, several) who asks us how we are doing, and they really want to know. That feels good. We want to be cared for, thought about, paid attention to. It is not the size of the gesture that matters; rather, it is frequency and consistency that communicate how serious the other person is about our relationship.

This is true for our team members too. Getting recognized once a year on an anniversary and getting a gift can be encouraging, but being told daily that you are appreciated and valued—even if it is in passing—is more likely to create a
lasting impact. We also must be intentional as leaders that our praise or appreciation outnumbers correction by a significant margin (some say at least 10 to 1). If we seldom communicate appreciation (even if it is big) and we often correct, the person will most likely feel uncared for and underappreciated.

Small things also matter in communities. My son and I decided to watch the entire film series of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (extended version) during spring break. That is 21 hours of yummy Tolkien goodness for those keeping score. Our original intent was to watch the whole series in a single, non-stop binge, but we were persuaded by my wife to break it up into smaller bites.

In Tolkien’s imaginary world, there is a very clear and obvious battle between good and evil. There are many epic battles involving large forces. There are difficulties in the relationships between entire races. There is a dark lord who has incredible power and amasses an enormous and vicious army to do his bidding. And there is a ring. A ring of power, and the temptation to use this ring (whose power is evil) to do good. Early in the movie, the Queen of the Elves, Galadriel, asks Gandalf why he chose a halfling—a Hobbit—to be part of the quest.

Gandalf responds, “I don’t know. Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”

Wow.

How perfect is that for our time? Many people are waiting for some “great power” to make things right. Many people think it takes political power, or influence, or money, or position of some kind to impact the world. Many people think there is really nothing they can do.

In Tolkien’s tome, it turns out to be Bilbo’s cousin, Frodo, who carries the ring to its destruction. It is not by might that Frodo wins the day, but by consistent diligence. He simply stays the course. It is hard—nearly impossible at times—but he pushes forward. And in the end, his sacrifice is the event that saves Middle Earth from darkness.

Any one of us could be Frodo.

Making a difference doesn’t take power—it takes the consistent application of good character.

Making a difference doesn’t take wealth—it takes the willingness to give of ourselves to others.

Making a difference doesn’t take position—it takes the belief that every action, however small, impacts the world for good or for bad.

What we do today will matter. We must choose to make a difference for good. That is The Kimray Way.

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