There is an old saying that the “the devil is in the details.” I’m sure that is a true statement. There are any number of ideas, suggestions or proposals that sound or look good in a general sense but become increasingly problematic the closer we examine them.
But I think that we can say that “the blessing is in the details” as well. Often it is the small things that matter most.
There is a story told by the rabbis about a man who wanted to reform the world. But he realized he didn’t know how to do that. So he decided to reform his country but didn’t know how to do that either. So he thought he would reform his neighbors but still no ideas came to him. Finally the man decided that he would simply try to reform himself.
I think I speak for many of us when I write that the news coming out of Washington and Austin these days is confusing, frustrating and disheartening. We wish for things to get better but we are not sure about how to get started. How can we make a difference? I think that much of the turmoil is reflective of the unhappiness and frustration we experience in our lives and that is reflected in our society at large.
Words like civility and courtesy seem to have lost their meaning. Words like polite or a phrase like “good manners” seem hopelessly quaint and out of step in the world in which we live. But I think good manners are like precious oil that lubricates human interaction. They are the essence of the teaching of Jesus to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
So I would like to suggest that we begin our attempt to change our society by trying to rediscover good manners in the small encounters of our daily lives. Try making a point of opening doors for other people. Drive as courteously as possible. Make room for other cars that are trying to merge into our lane. If someone cuts us off on the road or simply as we are walking, just let it pass. It’s not worth worrying about and certainly not worth arguing or fighting about. Try taking the time to ask the names of the people who provide services for us and call them by their names. Take the time to listen to others and try not to interrupt.
I’m sure that if you think about it, you can make your own list of small ways that you can begin to treat others courteously and with respect. Look for small ways that you can treat others as you would like to be treated. You will find there a blessing for others and for yourself. And perhaps we can make a start toward improving this messed up world.
It really is the small things that we can change and that do matter most.
Grace and peace,