One sunny afternoon when I was about seven or eight, I was sitting in the driveway with my very best friend. We sat surrounded by paper in various stages of crumple. We’d been at it for ages and had not been able to figure out how to fold a “really good” paper airplane. Our attempts were basic, crooked and largely far from flight worthy. Even with the advantage of her very steep driveway, the planes fell flat just a couple of feet from our own. It was disappointing and frustrating, but we were determined.
That same sunny afternoon, a repairman had been called to service something in her home. He walked by a few times on his trips between the house and his vehicle. We took very little notice of him, but he took notice of us. On one of his trips in or out, he stopped and picked up a sheet of our paper. That got our attention!
“Look and I’ll show you the trick to making a great paper airplane.” It only took him a few minutes to teach us the importance of straight crisp folds, and taking our time. “Don’t try and hurry. It’s not a race. Take the time you need to do it right and your plane will fly farther and last longer.” As he spoke, he showed us how to fold a better plane. When he was done, he left.
I doubt very much that repairman remembers teaching two little girls how to fold paper airplanes. He probably forgot about it as soon as he drove away. It wasn’t a big deal to him, but it was a very big deal to us. Paper planes were all the rage at school. We became superstars on the playground! We rose to become the reigning champions of the paper plane flying contests. We colored our planes. We named them! We spent hours and hours and hours folding, coloring, and flying paper airplanes.
All of that, and our hero repairman never knew any of it. All he knew was two little girls needed some help and he was qualified to give it. That small moment in time stayed with me. I learned a lot more than how to fold paper airplanes that day.
Sometimes the magnitude of life and the challenges we, and our children, face seem overwhelming. It can feel like nothing we do makes a difference. It’s not often we speak to Congress to pass a new law, or find a missing child, or save a human life. Moments of glory are few and far between. It is easy to feel as though our efforts don’t count.
Life is big. Life is messy. Life is hard and unbelievably complicated. But when we get right down to it, life is nothing more than a long series of small moments. What we do in those small moments counts.