• Charles A. Smith

The power of Little Moments



Sometimes little moments can matter. I still remember from my childhood a comment my stepfather made to me when we were playing catch in front of our home. (if I returned to my old home, I could mark the spot even now). I was a little league pitcher that summer. After one of my throws, he told me, “Nice curve.” Two words. A lifetime memory. Two words that are the only recollection I have of any compliment he ever made to me. Even so, two words are better than zero words.

Little moments can matter.

During my work as an Extension specialist in Kansas I had the opportunity to conduct teacher inservices. In one of my middle school meetings we discussed how teaching was essentially an act of faith. One of the teachers raised her hand. In a quiet, trembling voice, she told us that she had become a teacher because of what her male high school teacher wrote in her yearbook. She was unable to say what he wrote, probably more than two words. A memorable comment that moved her to action.

Regretting a missed opportunity?

Early in my career I was asked to meet with a group of men from a small town in southeast Kansas. They were worried about the survival of their community and wanted their Land Grant University to provide them with guidance. So the five men piled in a car and drove to our campus for the answers to their questions. The director called and asked me to visit with the group. We talked about the impact of the departure of young people on their community. As we discussed the meaning of community, one of the oldest (about 85 yrs.) in our group got my attention. He told me this story:

“When I was a teenager growing up on a farm, I had an old widower who lived alone nearby. Well, one sad day, when my old neighbor was about leave our town after a store visit, he accidentally backed over and killed a young child. The grief that flooded our town was horrible. Not long after this happened I was walking alone on the dirt road that passed this old neighbor’s home. He had left his porch to retrieve his mail. As I walked along our paths intersected at the mailbox. I stopped. He looked at me and started to cry. In a heartbreaking voice he told me, “I didn’t see her! I didn’t know she was there! I am SO SORRY!” As I listened and as he cried, I wanted so much to reach out and give him a hug. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. After a minute he gathered his mail, turned away from me, and trudged back up to his home. I have always regretted not giving him the hug that I wanted but failed to give.”

As I sat there across from him I could see the tears in his eyes. I responded, "Yes, not giving that hug has been painful to you over the years. But I think you are overlooking something, not something that did not do, but what you did. You stopped to listen to his side of what happened. You did not turn away and hurry on. You stopped and listened. You may have been the only one in your community to hear and remember what happened to him. Maybe when he went to bed that night he slept just a little bit better because he knew you were the recipient of his memory, his side of the tragedy. Maybe the terrible burden of his loneliness was lifted a little.”

Responding to a stranger on the plane next to us, a bashful teenager at school, a bullied colleague at work-- moments like this can have a lifetime impact for someone poised on the sharp point of vulnerability. At those moments, our lives can become gifts with enduring influence that may remain hidden from us. Such little kindness, offered in faith, is a belief in our power of caring.

#helping #sadness #community #compassion

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My email:

casmith@ksu.edu

My location: 

Olathe, Kansas