Monday, August 10, 2009


It's the little things, isn't it?

After every meal, I make sure I thank my cara spoza for it, telling her how good it was. I may have liked it; I may not, but that really doesn't matter: I wouldn't have had it if it wasn't for the work she put into making it.

My dear heart recently told me how much she appreciates my effort in complimenting the meals, and that's when I reflected on what prompts me to do this. Surprisingly to me, it wasn't (primarily) the example of my parents. Surprising because all the good things that I am have come from their example.

No, it was from a book: Ursala Le Guin's Lathe of Heaven. In that story, the wife of the protagonist George Orr (called "Jor Jor" by his not-so-imaginary-"friends") reflects on how it makes her feel when he thanks her for the meal, especially when it turns out ... well, not so well. She reflects on what a good man he is, for many reasons, but particularly for this little thing, this nothing thing: that he eats his meal, and that he's grateful for it ... that he's grateful for her.

It's the little things, isn't it?

I recall talking with a chief in the Navy on how his wife decided he was the one. He took her out on a date to a fancy-schmansy restaurant, and they were dressed to the nines, and the waitress tripped, spilling a tray full of drinks right into his lap.

Of course the waitress was mortified, but Chief made sure she was okay, helped her clean up as best he could, and told her to forget about it, because he already had.

That's when his (to be) wife knew. I'm sure she thought: if he behaves in this way, in this situation, to somebody he doesn't even know, well, that must show how he really is deep down.

Sometimes people like to think: oh, this-or-that didn't turn out so well, and I was rather nasty to the wife and kids then, but I'll do something really big to make up for it.

But you don't, and you can't. It's easy to say, "I'm not really like that ..." or "If the situation were different ..."

But this is how you are, and this is what the situation is, and the big event is never going to come. What you are is how you are in this scenario right now, all the time, because that's all you have.

Yes, it's easy to say, "When I am the grand poobar, I'd do this."

No. The strength of a man is measure thus:

  • When he is weak, does he stand for what he believes in the face of overpowering adversity? That is, does he accept martyrdom, even if it's the little death of saying, "No, boss, you're wrong, and I refuse to go along with this"?

  • And, when he is strong, how does he treat the littlest of these, including the waitress, including the wife and kids?

And that is the story of the soul that God will read on Judgment Day. That is what the spiritual exercises and that is what George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior are for: to help weak men grow into strength and to keep strong men, strong.

For, after all, it's the little things, isn't it?

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