In Defense of the Small

Yesterday, a friend of mine (she knows who she is) told me that she and her husband are officially “old” because they got a humidifier for Christmas. (And were happy about it.) And I said, “Oh, come on. You know how excited I was about my flannel sheets, right?” It’s like we’ve got this thing going that if an item is not sufficiently flashy and/or fancy, we are silly for being excited about it.

To which I say, “PPBBTH!”

I mean, think about it. A humidifier may be a humble appliance, but it does something significant: it makes life easier. If you’re in the middle of winter and it’s freezing cold and the moisture has utterly disappeared from the air, you have the problems of dry skin and coarse hands and staticky clothes, and it makes getting a cold worse. My friends just got something that will make their lives more pleasant. Sure, it doesn’t have a touch screen or wifi, it’s not in the latest style, and it isn’t hawked by celebrities. So what? Anyone who scoffs at their happiness over a humidifier has not had to live through our winters without one.

Yet anytime someone is happy for something simple, we call them “old” or “boring” or something worse.

Why are we ashamed of this? Why? What is there to apologize for? Who told us to be ashamed, and why are we listening to them? This past week I bought flannel sheets. Flannel sheets. Mundane, sure, and practical, but does that make them any less “good”? They’re soft and warm, and they’ll keep me warm. I’m going to enjoy them. It probably helps that I’m a tactile person and thus love a good texture. To me, “flannel” is synonymous with “cuddle.” What’s wrong with enjoying that? I bought a thing, a simple thing, and it makes me happy. I should apologize?

These are the small graces, the ordinary blessings that come from life. The world is full of them. They don’t have to be unexpected, and sometimes they’re something we do ourselves. Doesn’t make them any less. We focus so much on the big things, on the major events and life-changing moments. Yet those big moments can be things which are, in a large way, out of our control. The bride who plans the massive outdoor wedding can get rained out. The brand-new shiny car can get totalled. Last night, we planned on watching the last two episodes of Doctor Who in a private theater at a friend’s apartment complex. The technology decided to sabotage us, and thus we ended up yet again before a TV screen. But that didn’t take away from the small graces of the night: hanging out with my friends, joking about a yarn ball being a Tribble, meeting two massive cats, eating Skittles and peppernuts and watching a show we like. The large was taken away, but the small remained intact.

We can’t compare the sizes, either. Way too often, we say, “Yes, but it isn’t as huge and mind-blowingly awesome as [thing].” And? Are we expecting life to be full of such huge moments? Do we spend the rest of our lives bored and sullen? The big and the small can live side-by-side, the details and the full pattern, every little note in the range of the song. They don’t diminish each other. They don’t exclude each other. When you’ve got a good pattern going, when you have a thing that is well-made, both the small bits and the total thing can be enjoyed. People laugh when someone says, “Oh, but look at the stitching!” when everybody else is more concerned about the whole dress – it was never meant for the big picture to be dismissed. Joy can be layered up. Why would you throw out the small just because of the big? Why can’t you have them all together?

I could spend the rest of my life in anticipation of The Next Big Thing. I could spend my life pining for Big Things Past. Then my life would be only Big Things, and all the little things that enrich it would be lost.

And thus I will enjoy my flannel sheets, and if anyone mocks me, that’s their loss.

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