Literature

The Power and Weight of Little Things

The pearly moon glowing through a break in the clouds. A fantastically ornate frost pattern on a car hood or patio table. A pleasing piece of art at a coffee shop. The person in front of you in line for the cashier telling you to go first, or secretly paying $20 toward your purchases. Moments of noticing nature, seeing beauty, small gestures of kindness or appreciation, have far more power than people think. Each connects us, immediately and unexpectedly, to our feelings; we’re whisked away from our planning, judging, overwhelmed minds by these arresting little pops of joy. And joy returns every time we remember the experiences. Such experiences contribute greatly to our sanity and humanity. Can’t we all use more sanity and humanity in these over-busy, overly stressful, globally-connected and -infected times, especially with the demands of holidays upon us?

However, a different kind of little thing—one that proliferates during said holidays—can weigh us down long after: the “it’s just a little thing” gift. We women are particularly responsible. Oh, the intentions, the impulses behind “little thing” gifts are often admirable: to symbolize our appreciation of friends and acquaintances. We love giving, particularly when festively wrapped and ribbonned (half the gift is the way it’s packaged.) Yet, how often have you received “little things” for which you had no use? Things you felt guilty for not wearing, or that cluttered up your home, or that you re-gifted (maybe after storing for a year)? How many not-your-taste silly socks/”funny” mugs/jewelry/refrigerator magnets, chemically-scented candles and lotions, have you spent space and energy on?

With these issues in mind—as well as our over-burdened landfills—and if gifting experiences (a hike? a museum visit?) is too intangible, consider edibles or plants. Even dried lavender or herbs from your garden. I’m borrowing a toddler (you don’t need to know the parents, but you do need their permission) to help make suet ornaments. We can still use that pretty wrapping paper, and the recipient can serve our gift or make compost without guilt. Best of all, we spend less energy in our heads and in stores, having more time to visit with our appreciated people, more time to notice the delighted dog, the syncopated windshield wipers—the little pops of joy.