Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Important Decisions

"Woven Together"
- along a wilderness trail -

Today is “Election Day,” but this is a rather unimportant election year and only a few “local offices” are on the ballot in most places in the country, so many people will not go out to vote on this day.

I was just talking to someone about Election Day and he surprisingly told me that, even though he is more than 50 years old he has never once voted in any election in this country- not even in the years when we vote for a president. I was somewhat taken back by this disclosure and asked him why he chooses not to vote, to which he responded: “What difference will my little vote make in the larger scheme of things and does it really matter who we elect- nothing ever seems to change?”

On this Election Day I was thinking about my friend’s response and it made me wonder if a lot of people may think like he does even if they choose to vote on an election day. I wonder how many people may look the chaos we read and hear about every day, problems in the world, problems in the country, and say to themselves, ‘What difference could my one tiny life possibly make in the overall scope of things?”

And so, if people are relatively happy they are often content to “stay at home” and retreat to the  confines of their own comfort zones, paying little or no attention to the needs of others or the overwhelming problems of the world.

A while back I remember reading an article by columnist, David Brooks, in the New York Times, in which he made this very thoughtful observation:

Everywhere there are tiny, seemingly inconsequential circumstances,
that, if explored, provide meaning – everyday chances to be generous and kind.
Spiritual and emotional growth happens in microscopic increments.

The big decisions we make turn out to have much less impact on life as a whole
than the myriad of small seemingly insignificant ones.

This observation makes so much sense to me. For one thing, we are all woven together, interconnected with one another in a dynamic web of relationship and so anything done to one part of this relational web (regardless of how seemingly unimportant) has a rippling effect on everything else.

In the grocery store yesterday I thought to myself how amazing it is that a kind word to the cashier in the store might affect not only that person behind the counter but every single other person who goes through that line in the store that day and comes into contact with her.  Then I thought how those customers will then leave the store and how they will then subsequently affect the lives of everyone they meet. One little word of thanks can touch thousands (and thousands) of people.

Yesterday I made a special effort to smile and say thanks to the cashier in that store.

It seems to me that, whatever any one of us may do, whatever decisions each of us makes,  no matter how seemingly insignificant, decisions to be kind and generous or decisions to be aloof and judgmental are always important. In fact, in the long run, those little decisions we make every day may have greater impact than those big events that happen when world leaders meet on the global stage.

It also seems to me that the decisions we choose “not” to make also have great significance. I remember something the theologian, Harvey Cox, said many years ago:

Not to decide is to decide.

When I choose not to reach beyond my own ego and retreat into the comfort of my own self complacency, when I ignore the needs of others, when I step over the homeless man on the street asking for a “little help,” or when I ignore requests to conserve water in a time of drought, I have in fact made some choices;  and the world might have been a different place had I chosen to do otherwise.

This seemingly unimportant “Election Day” is a good time for me to reflect on the choices I make every day. Today is a good day to reflect upon the little things I say or do that I take for granted and to remember that every decision I make is an important decision,

In fact the smallest decisions often yield the greatest impact.


  1. Love how you write about the impact that a smile at the checkout can make...thank you xx