And now, the details…

Photo by aztazou at flickrI have a confession to make. I am a sucker for details. Oh yes, I know how to look at the big picture. But it’s the details that tickle, that amaze, that fascinate me.

When I was a kid, my five older brothers and sisters would groan as I told them stories; inevitably, I would hear, “Just get to the point!” When others would tell me their stories, I would wait for the details like a dog panting after a bone held in mid-air–and when they instead shot straight to the punchline, I couldn’t help part of me feeling the story was lacking something.

It makes sense that as a child, details fascinate–simply because at that size and age, everything else around seems bigger and more grandiose. The details can’t be ignored because they don’t seem like tiny little things. But as one grows older, the importance of details seems to naturally wane–often, almost always, there is simply no time to dive into the specifics; there is always so much to be done, and right away!

And so as I entered the adult world, I found myself, like most others, developing fondness for to-the-point, grown-up, big expressions like at the end of the day and in the final analysis… Still, a part of me would not let go of the affinity for particulars. As a teacher, I would put effort in letting my students understand that the homework itself mattered just as much as their margins, their penmanship, the presentation of their work. Attention to details was for me a big indicator of the care and dedication a student put into her work.

Now that I have become a full-time mom, I have discovered to my delight that I have the time to stop and smell the roses, and I love the opportunities that come along with it! The simplest things put me in near-reverie. Case in point: while bathing my 3-year-old, I moved the tub of water a bit to the side, and he exclaimed in pure wonder: “Mama, look! Water going down the holes!” It was the moment I call Discovering the Drain. A-ha moments like this amuse me to no end; sadly enough, moments like this are exactly the kind that got overlooked when I was caught up in the world of work.

Recently, our family took a much-longed-for trip to an island. In a rush I would say, “Oh, it was great having the opportunity to spend time together away from it all!” But give me a few more minutes, and it’s the particulars that I will relate fondly: my second son and I laughing as we struggled to waddle to the ocean with our snorkeling gear on and tripping all over our clumsy fins. (Only later, after getting over the excitement of a shared adventure, did we realize it made more sense to walk barefoot to the water and slip on the fins once already in the water. Smart.) My husband and I relishing all-too-rare time-alone together on a date at the hotel’s outdoor restaurant after dutifully ordering room service and setting up the kids with their books, crayons, and movies. My eldest sweetly caring for the youngest, completely unaware that anyone was watching. The glee and wonder of my three youngest kids as they explored sand and shells for the first time in their lives. It is these moments, not the incredible landscape, that are recorded for posterity in my camera. My husband teases me that he regrets giving me that little gadget that I whip out virtually every hour. But capturing the most ordinary moments in my family’s life on my camera allows me to celebrate the little details of each day and each life and each relationship in a tangible, lasting manner.

So yes, I say, pay attention to the details. I try to impart this little truth to my sons at every opportunity. It’s not so much that you did your chore but how much love you placed into doing it. It’s not so much the words you said but how you said it, the tone you used, the smile that was or wasn’t there as you spoke. It’s not just whether you took your bath, but how well you scrubbed behind the ears. It’s not just about the final destination, it’s just as much about how you made your journey.

My sons have heard thousands of variations of this, all with the same underlying counsel: Little things matter. Someone once said, “God is in the details.” If we can all pause a while in this hurried–or harried?–life, just long enough to appreciate the little things that are so often passed over, if we can apply the same amount of effort and love in doing the small unseen things that on the surface don’t seem to matter much in the larger scheme of life, wouldn’t we all be much happier and better for it? Because, really, isn’t the big picture called Life simply a majestic mosaic made up of all those tiny pieces of ordinary moments? 😉

 *This was an article I wrote for the April 2007 issue of The Glimpse. Just wanted to share it with you… 🙂

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