Learn to appreciate the little things

A popular self-help book came out about 15 years ago entitled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – and It’s All Small Stuff.”

Written by Richard Carlson, the book is designed to help people reduce stress by teaching them to not worry so much about a thousand little things at once that they may have little or no control over.

It’s good advice, and the book has been a best-seller, teaching people how to relax, keep their emotions in proper perspective and cherish each other.

But as our local high schools celebrate commencement this week, I want to leave a pearl of wisdom with our local graduates: Do sweat the small stuff.

Well, maybe not “sweat” the small stuff, but I would advise our young people, rather, to pay attention to and appreciate the little things in life – the small stuff they encounter every day, and then act on it in myriad ways.

It’s kind of like the “pay it forward” philosophy we’ve heard so much about lately where, if you receive a good deed from someone, do something similar for someone else.

It’s easy in our busy lives to get all wrapped up in school, work, projects, social occasions and the busy-as-a-bee lives we all seem to experience these days. I once heard the humorous phrase “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get,” and there’s something to be said for that. We rush about in a busy, rushed, almost panicked state – awash in stress. Our graduating seniors have experienced this in school, from the stress of homework and tests to the pressure that comes with athletic competition and other activities.

And so I encourage our students to remember to stop, take a deep breath and carefully take in the world around you and the important people in your lives from time to time. Bake cookies with your mom or sister, go fishing with your dad, or go on a hike with your brother.

Spend some time at home rather than hanging out with friends every night. Plan some quality time – and mean it. Spend a few extra moments with that nice lady at church who seems so interested in your activities and plans. She has probably watched you grow up and truly is interested in you.

Remember and appreciate the quality of life you have enjoyed growing up in Lovell, Byron, Cowley, Deaver or Frannie. No, it doesn’t seem nearly as exciting as growing up in Chicago or New York, but there is a bond and a caring among people in small towns that you just won’t find in the big city.

Most kids want to leave skid marks as they leave town to seek excitement away from where they grew up, but in a few years most will come to appreciate the simpler, perhaps even relatively carefree life they enjoyed growing up. I hope students will appreciate their roots even as they reach for the sky.

Strive to always be kind. If you really want to make a good impression, a smile and a kind word to someone will go a long way toward making someone’s day – and it will make you feel good, too.

Pay attention. Listen. Think. Slow down rather than blindly charging forward. There is so much to appreciate in life. There will be plenty of big moments on your journey, but how rich your life experience is may depend more on the little moments.

So don’t sweat the small stuff, but do pay attention to and learn to appreciate the little things. Details in life do matter.

By David Peck