When Small is Big

adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So you think small things don’t matter? Think again. They really do.

Four of us sat in a waiting room this week while a family member underwent brain surgery. There were about 30 others in the room waiting for family and friends to get through their procedures. People were anxious. They were worried. They were scared. We all needed a little levity.

On the table next to us was a phone. It was a hospital phone with an extension written in big black type on the receiver. Every few minutes the phone would ring. Since it wasn’t anyone’s job to answer it, my brother-in-law decided he’d make it his.

After he’d picked up the phone and politely said hello, he’d put his hand over the receiver. Then he’d ask, with a big smile on his face, whether so-and-so was in the room. Most of the time they were. After he’d called their names, they’d come over to him somewhat confused. They’d return the smile, express thanks, and take the receiver, but you could tell they didn’t really know what his role was. Without missing a beat, he’d go back to working on his Smartphone and laptop.

It was inspiring and comical at the same time.

My brother-in-law is a highly respected leader in a well-known city. He wears a suit and tie to work every day, manages several hundred staff and a multi-million dollar budget, and he has several administrative assistants. He could scoff at answering a phone that no one expects him to answer. He could get annoyed at the fact that there’s a phone next to him that rings incessantly.

Instead, he picks it up, comforts the person on the other end, finds who they’re looking for, connects them, and goes back to work. He does it all without being asked and with no expectation that he’ll be thanked. He’s happy to help.

I mention this story because I think it captures something we can sometimes forget. Making a difference isn’t that hard. It’s not brain surgery (that’s for sure) or rocket science. It’s often about the small things. The things we can overlook or ignore or think don’t matter at all when, in fact, they really do.

It’s a reminder that at any moment, no matter how small, we have the opportunity to –

  • Solve a problem
  • Step up (without being asked)
  • Add value (without expecting anything in return)
  • Connect people
  • Care
  • Be bold
  • Take charge
  • Be kind

After we left the room, I’m not sure if anyone else decided to answer the phone. All I know was that for one day, for eight tense hours, one person did. And that small act made a big difference for a lot of people.


  1. Kat on April 3, 2015 at 12:59 am

    I whole heartedly agree with the sentiments in your post. I live by them…however, I find more and more as a teacher, ‘if you happily pick up the phone’, then the expectation becomes that you will happily answer the phone every time, and it’s not a big a deal to ask you to write notes if the person is unavailable to speak with; and then you’ll stay late to continue answering the phone, long after others have left!
    Just saying, I love good will, but it only exists when people chose not to take advantage. 😉

  2. Brittany Jordan on April 3, 2015 at 6:28 am

    Wonderful Friday inspiration!

  3. Gayle on April 3, 2015 at 7:23 am

    Thanks Brittany!

  4. Gayle on April 3, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Kat, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Kudos on living it! Harder to live it when it becomes an expectation.