Novelist | Singer
Extraordinary things can happen as long as we focus on doing little ordinary tasks every day.
Trent Preszler—episode on CBS Sunday Morning
I’m over 60 now, and at times I feel I haven’t accomplished much in life, particularly when I watch a show like CBS Sunday Morning and witness the incredible lives of notable individuals who start a movement or develop an invention. It can be a depressing exercise to measure your accomplishments against someone who was perhaps simply at the right place and time.
Awards and accolades are paramounts, mountains, apices in our lives that don’t happen by accident. We work hard for them, and when we receive them, it is with a blend of pride, humility and sometimes an alarming fear of being discovered a fraud.
I watched Trent Preszler and his amazing hand-built canoes on Sunday Morning. He mentioned the quote above at the end of the episode. Extraordinary things can happen as long as we focus on doing little ordinary tasks every day. I then paused to think of the importance of the small things. Things that seem insignificant on the surface, yet their cumulative effect can move the earth.
A good example is my role as a piping plover ambassador on Good Harbor Beach. It’s a commitment, a one-hour daily shift for five weeks— it amounts to around 40 hours per person x 14 volunteers = 550+ volunteer hours to help protect birds that nature designed to nest in one of the most popular humanoid hangouts on a hot summer day—the beach. All the volunteers take their role seriously; they show up on time and stay the entire hour, usually longer.
It’s stressful when the chicks first hatch, they are so little and vulnerable. They are hungry, energetic and naïve; not particularly afraid or wary of humans. And they run for the edge of the water without much warning, to probe for the big juicy sea worms found just under the sand. This foray takes them past dozens of beach goers who aren’t necessarily looking out for teeny weeny birds running for their breakfast.
Our faithful team watches over them. There are some days that I drag myself out the door and down the stairs lugging my backpack with binoculars, sunscreen, notebook, hat and often a raincoat on the iffy days, to a place I don’t care much for during the high season: the crowded summer beach. Granted the shifts are only one hour, or maybe 1 ½ hours, not a lot in my whole day.
A small thing. In the total timeline of life, a very tiny cog that helps preserves a relatively insignificant few birds. It is about the birds and at the same time, not really about the birds. Only 160 piping plovers existed in 1986. Now there are over 2,000 breeding pairs. A remarkable success story. It also indicates an increase in awareness; that one little bird symbolizes the precious value of life and the value of the earth we all inhabit.
Be happy with the small things in your life. The shared morning cup of coffee. A robin’s evening melody. The aroma of mown grass. Think about volunteering. Give your time, even in small amounts to something you believe.