People often say, “It’s the little things.” What does that actually mean? It seems so randomly abstract, yet I think a lot of people know exactly what you mean when you say that phrase.
Paraguayans have given me a more concrete understanding of the idea of the little things: take the time to make the moment special. When I first got here, I thought it was a complete waste of time that two nurses plus a random person at the health post spent a good hour trying to use bits of curtain and gauze to create a table cover for the dinky wooden table on which the portable vaccine cooler sat. Who cared if the table had a cover? And the gauze and bits of curtain didn’t even look that good. I used to wonder if it really made a difference if we put a Christmas tablecloth over the table in May when we were eating in a dirt-floored room that chickens entered freely. I now believe that these activities not only matter, but also are worthwhile.
I love that the señoras I bake with cover their tables before we start mixing our cake batter. I love that even if we are outside, they conjure up a tablecloth before serving coffee and crackers. I love that they take the time to find the one or two nice ceramic mugs they have to serve the coffee. I love that rather than use a different, more ugly mug they wait for the first person to finish their coffee to use the pretty mug for the next person. I love it because little things like that make me feel special. Even if the tablecloth really doesn’t make the table more sanitary or doesn’t look better I appreciate the effort.
Why shouldn’t you take the extra couple of minutes to make your eating place look nice? Why not cut your veggies so they’re pretty, not just bite sized, before throwing them into your salad? Why not great everyone before taking a seat? The little things are inherently extra, but they are the spice, the flavor of life.