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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why Little Things Count (2)

Desmond Tutu's story shown in the article in the previous blog reveals two major reasons why little things count—1) they reflect something that is reasonably within our or someone else’s control and 2) they have an ethical dimension.  The white priest that doffed his hat to Desmond Tutu’s mother could not snap his fingers and end apartheid.  But what he could do, he did.  This included ending it in his own relationships with blacks.  He treated Tutu’s mother with respect and equality (maybe even more than equality).  In Tutu’s eyes this was a defining moment.  It was not accompanied by fireworks and a brass band; it was done quietly and naturally.  There was nothing to distract from the genuineness and sincerity and personal focus of the gesture.  Another example in the article asked you to consider that you have waited six months for a meeting with Mr/Ms Big only to find that in the finally achieved meeting ... "he/she looks at you but doesn’t see you."  Here we find a lack of courtesy, but more than that, we find something seriously troubling within the ethical dimension.  We feel that we have not only been slighted, but we have a deep sense that we have been wronged.  Obviously Mr/Ms Big does not think the Golden Rule applies to them.  Their behavior need not be guided by elemental empathy.  Because of the ethical dimension of Little Things, they can become highly charged symbols that have a lasting influence on attitudes, opinions, and behavior.

The good news in all this is that we do not have to be prominent wielders of power and influence to lead significant lives.  In fact, notoriety or high position can be a hindrance.  Then the behavior may be seen to be tailored for “public consumption” or “official duties” rather than being genuine and personal.  Ironically, sometimes the more humble the positions we occupy (Tutu as a child didn’t know the priest was in fact prominent), the more profound influence we can muster.  By being seriously interested in others and what they have to say, we can help advance conditions on earth as they are in heaven.

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