One of the things I love about our new home is grocery shopping. The largest Kroger I have ever seen is just over a mile from our house. There is a Publix less than two miles, another just over three miles, and one under construction just over a half mile from our driveway. That results in a lot of choices, sometimes too many choices.
I stood in front of the salad section at Publix this afternoon, trying to remember what types of salad my wife currently likes and what she does not like. Known for their superb customer service, Publix did not disappoint.
A younger man quickly asked me as I stood there if he could help. I told him that I was trying to figure out what type of salad my wife wanted. “You would think after 43 years of marriage, I would know by now”, I told him. An older employee overheard me and said he worked in the produce section and still did not know what type of lettuce to bring home. We joked with each other that as long as we had been married, we should know these small things.
Life is full of small things. Sometimes we seem to just focus on the big things which we usually have no control over. Hurricanes. Pandemics. Climate change. No jobs. No workers. There have been a lot to worry about the last few years. We are stressed and often at a loss of what to do. We are not sure where we are going as a nation.
Throw in the volatile mix of social media, cable news, political posturing and we have a growing sense of hopelessness and despair. What can we do as a nation? What can I do as an individual?
Maybe, just maybe, it is time to focus on the small things in our lives. It is important to me that I pick out the salad that my wife wants. Not because she will be angry if I get the wrong kind, but rather because she will be happy if I get it right. She does not even have to know that I agonized over my choice.
Do you remember the small things we were taught as children? Hold the door for a lady. Put your fork on the left and the knife on the right. Do not talk with your mouth full. Make up your bed every day. Brush your teeth. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before you eat. I am sure the list in our collective memories of the small things we were expected to do would be quite extensive. Most of those small things I was taught, I still do today.
I am writing this article as I am watching the evening news on Labor Day. It is quite overwhelming. More bad news than good, but then that is the nature of the media these days. What are the small things I could do that would make my life better tomorrow? That we could all do?
Less social media would be a good start. That is a problem our parents did not have to worry about. They did drill into my young head “if you cannot say something good about someone, just do not say anything”. Can you imagine if that was a rule on Facebook or Twitter?
Do not talk about politics or religion with friends. Another old rule that should be dusted off and reinstated in our daily lives.
Write thank you notes. A text or email is an acceptable substitute these days, though a handwritten note will bring extra appreciation due to your effort. Even just using the two words, “Thank you”, can take the edge off relationships that seem so strained today. “I am sorry”, has the same healing power.
Be mindful of those who are different than you. In today’s world, that has grown to include their political beliefs, their thoughts about Covid, and even whether you should take a vaccine. Our differences are so much greater than just color or religion these days.
As the big things threaten to overwhelm us and tear us apart, remember the importance of the small things in our lives. Even the right salad can make your day.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org