Terribly important are the ways of the world, the giant ebb and flow of time’s tides, and how what we know and what we do shapes what will be – for each of us and for society. But important too are little things – for which the world can wait, the bounce of a ball, overdue call, little footsteps down the hall, simple stuff and small, but real not fluff, so not small at all.
My son was a Boy Scout, and so my life grew thick with camping trips, no phone, no internet, and no regret. Our time together, those precious days, flew by and yet they linger still, powerful and formative, as much for me as for my son. My daughter ran, rode, and danced and was for me life’s cause, always cause enough to pause.
Among things the world surely thinks are small, was baseball – watching games, my son – a shortstop, long dives, quick shags, two hours of recorded stats, tense at bats; on his toes, ever ready, then he stopped it, threw, another out, another look, another game in life’s big book.
My daughter too was everything, quiet, ready, steady, start, and run – breathless up another hill, rounding hard another turn, courage in her heart, driving legs that burn; or managing a one ton horse with poise and discipline, just leaning in, another fence on feel, a little girl made of steel.
How did she guide him with no fear, gentle touch – the unheard whisper in his ear? How did she channel life’s frustrations and concussions like a deer and yet, chips when it counted, another pirouette?
Studying hard – both of them – how did they put the craziness of politics and the world aside? How did they know, because it was so, their Dad thought what mattered was very simple, just doing their honest best, keeping stride, steady effort, just what they could give on a given day.
Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Some days things happened the way they wished, some days they never would. But always, they tried, an earnest try. Why did they do that, why did they care? The longer I live, the more I think – it was part heart, and because we were there.
Such a simple thing really, in the life of a child, sister, brother, father, mother, maybe just a neighbor on the mend, straggler, stranger, sudden friend – knowing someone cares, that you are there.
So much of life is around us and not far away, not big and important, just easy to forget. We have 24-hour news, allies and adversaries, media to use; we have political thrusts and parries, a president, congress, culture in a mess. What fool would pause to think we are blessed?
But here is the secret, and it will lift your day – keep you straight. People need you, as you need them, now and on every future date. You can change their lives, alter the trajectory of their fate, make all the difference by being there, being involved. Those we affect the most are close.
Politics and global issues matter; they shape the world, they give it form. We chase them daily, curse them freely, do what we can to get things right, and well we should, but big things frustrate the best among us. Power to change them is limited. Important too are things for which…the world can wait. Nothing so restores the soul, sense of purpose, place ,mission, and gives us the strength for another mile – as the sudden, heartfelt appearance of a smile.
Sometimes it is good to recall the other things, the bounce of a ball, the overdue call, the little footsteps down the hall. Nothing is more important in the end than love of family and care of a friend, just simple stuff but real not fluff, and…not so small at all. So take heart, give heart, and know – that your power to change a life is real. The Republic is important, but sometimes…the world can wait.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.
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