Reflecting on a year past is one of my favorite exercises. I spend much of New Year’s Day each year sitting by a fire, poring over the past year’s calendar day-by-day and perusing photos of the year. I try to marinate in gratitude for what has happened and for people I’ve encountered and from whom I’ve learned or benefitted. I map a point of basking in the possibility of what could be if I could learn from mistakes, amplify successes, partner with others, risk boldly, step into longings, admit what I want and slow down enough to prioritize it.
One thing that jumped out at me from 2013 was this: a number of people impacted me significantly through relatively minor actions that they may not have even known touched me. I want to highlight a few:
- One couple invited me over to dinner to discuss a book I was reading for a class I was taking. They suggested, accurately, that it might be a little lonely to not have someone with whom to bat around the material.
- A young woman asked me to accompany her on an errand that she wanted to do in response to another’s crisis. She felt a little shaky and honored me with her request that I simply keep her company.
- A friend challenged me about an article I read and loved and shared, inviting deeper conversation around our quite disparate views while acknowledging the similarities between us too.
- Multiple friends introduced me to other friends that they love, sharing the wealth of cool people.
- Another friend went with me to visit an elderly friend of mine and now will bear witness with me, in the wake of the latter’s death, to someone quite amazing.
- Two friends read three different versions of the book I’m working on, taking the time to annotate, discuss, coax and challenge me to keep persevering in honing it.
- Three guys who regularly hang out together welcomed me over and over into their triumvirate, acting as if the circle wasn’t complete without me.
- Strangers invited me into their home for dinner, providing a respite on a cross-country road trip just because their son told them he had a friend who’d be passing through their area.
- One friend listened to me for most of a four-day visit, helping me make some decisions about work and life, even though I repeated myself and my questions ad infinitum.
- One friend included a note in her Christmas card outlining the decline of her partner, suffering with memory loss. It was hard to read, undoubtedly harder to write, and yet a kindness to have that information before it’s too late.
The list could go on. And on. And on.
Small things matter. Small things feel big when done with love and when they match up with our needs and longings.
How many times I’ve not done something I leaned towards because I didn’t think it was significant enough or because I just didn’t bother. I want to learn from all those who impact me in their acts of kindness, small and large.
I want to take some of the gifts of 2013 into 2014, offering to others more of what I’ve received.