This month gave way to a new tradition in our family. We had to say goodbye to our beloved golden retriever, Luke. We wanted a way to remember him, and in a moment of sheer inspiration (or sheer madness) I got out a sharpie marker and wrote, “Luke 5/11/16” on our breakfast table. Yes, the one I spent a month staining and painting so it would look rustic chic. My family was strangely quiet at first, but then my daughter promptly picked up the marker and drew a heart around it, and thus our memory table was born.
At first we couldn’t think of much to write, only big accomplishments — grades passed, work promotions. But then I encouraged my kiddos to write small accomplishments and things that made them happy that week. The thought struck me — people are mostly shaped by all of the little things in life. Yes, the big things are what impact history and what we are known for in our communities, but the small things, the intimate circle of family and friends know about, they’re where the real grit of life is. They are the things that make up our personality clear the path for the big accomplishments. For instance, at first on the table I wrote about how successful our fundraiser was for the nonprofit I founded. But right beside it I wrote, “I was finally able to do the splits at 40 years of age.” My daughter wrote, “I shot a three pointer in the basketball game.” “Finally learned to throw a football.” Small goals are just as important as big ones. The texture of life is made up of all the small threads that are woven together, and these tiny threads make the tapestry picture that illustrates the legacy we leave behind.
When I research the women for Grace and Grit I love finding out the small bits of information about them that make them feel knowable, that reveal their personality. I always search out unknown facts about the women, and sometimes I come up blank — but sometimes I get some insightful knowledge. For instance, the fact that Amelia Earhart was a fashionista! She learned how to sew as a child and started a clothing line in addition to flying. Some of her pants were even made out of parachute material. The reason Audrey Hepburn has a tulip named after her is because she ate them during the food shortage in WWII, and I absolutely loved reading about how a young Wilma Rudolph took her leg brace off unannounced one Sunday morning right before entering church, much to the surprise of her family and friends.
Those little things deserve to be remembered and documented. They are the supporting beams to the big accomplishments in these women’s lives. They give us glimpses into their personal lives — who’d have guessed that Amelia, famous pilot and tomboy, loved fashion! Audrey Hepburn, the glamorous movie star who wore the best French designs in all her films, knew the pain of intense starvation — memories that led her to dedicate so much of her life to UNICEF. Wilma’s determination to walk with freedom was the spark of desire that led to her running her way to Olympic gold medals.
The small things come before big things. They are the trial and error things, the “what else can I do” things, the things we forget if not written down because they get brushed under the mat. This evening, I will write down, “nailed a networking meeting today” and right beside it I will also write, “nailed a cartwheel today.” What little successes have you had today? I hope you cherish them.