I remember the first few weeks after 9/11. There was this unifying vibration that seemed to reverberate inside of everyone. It was palpable. You could feel that people were more friendly, more neighborly. Like the shock of that sucker punch and all of its ramifications had us collectively drinking the same “milk of human kindness.” It was comforting for a little while.
Then eventually, the unplanned, unspoken solidarity gave way to business as usual. Everybody moved on. That’s why I’m nervous about COVID-19.
I felt a little of that, We-Are-All-In-This-Together humanity again in the first weeks that we’ve faced a Global Pandemic. But this is different. And it is important to understand the difference.
Now that solidarity is in quarantine.
Worse, there is no back to “business as usual” anywhere in sight. Couples are cooped up together. Families are cooped up together. Some people are in quarantine alone. Day after day, after day…
The Little Things & The Big Things
The early research and statistics are already indicating that child abuse and domestic violence are on the rise. The torment of financial instability is “sheltering in place” with families, along with Stress, Anxiety, Boredom, and Anger among others. For many people, sadly, visiting a divorce attorney will be the first order of business when the quarantine is lifted.
I have this theory—feel free to disagree—that there are very few, Big Things in our lives. There are just a whole lot of Little Things. Even what we consider Big Things are usually just Little Things compressed and aggregated over time.
I’m not trying to imply that a Global Pandemic is not a Big Thing. I’m not saying that COVID-19 isn’t a Big Thing. But they are big like Texas is big—Not much I can do about it.
In our current situation, my task isn’t to find a cure or a vaccine. I’ll leave all that to the courageous experts at the CDC and WHO. However, I make a thousand little decisions a day that affect those in quarantine with me. How am I doing with these Little Things?
We often envision ourselves heroically rising to the occasion for the Big Things in life. But we usually end up overlooking the Little Things. We stumble over the simplicity. I’m no different. Man, I’ve neglected so many Little Things while I thought I was on top of the Big Things. Then suddenly, one day—my failures as a husband, father, and friend are right there before me. Blow the Little Things and I’ve blown the Big Things of Marriage, Parenting, and Family.
What does it even mean to “get through” a Big Thing like a Global Pandemic?
I sure don’t know. I’m not even sure if that’s the right question.
What are my Little Things?
I do know that:
- My tone of voice sometimes hurts my wife.
- A harsh word can dispirit my son.
- I can choose to forgive a perceived slight.
- Listening is often better than speaking.
And, I know the difference between choosing to escalate a situation and choosing to de-escalate it. (Usually, both are Little Things.) I know I can choose to make grace tangible in any given moment in quarantine.
Surviving these times—not hurting ourselves, our spouses, our children—will depend on working hard at the Little Things.
Getting through this and maybe even being better on the other side, as an individual, as a couple, as a family, absolutely depends on the little choices we make in all the little moments. Little choices in the little moments. Working at not doing the Little Things that hurt the people we love. They end up a Big Thing.