“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
It’s a phrase often used to tell people to relax and not think of the little things. But sometimes, reflecting on the little things is essential for us to appreciate the big picture. We don’t think that the little things matter, but really they matter so much more than we know.
Think of the people who sacrificed their comfort, health, and sleep for you, stayed up during odd times of the night to care for you, and much, much, later perhaps, worry about you. These people may be our parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. While we do our best to imagine, we may never truly know the extent of a parent’s love and sacrifice until perhaps we, ourselves, are in these people’s shoes.
Sweat and missed opportunities
Smoke, dust, and grime. This was the life Maxine’s* parents knew all too well. Being in the auto supply industry, work is tough and the environment, taxing. Having married young and not having the opportunity to enroll in university, it was practically the only adult life Maxine’s mother knew. The two parents struggled to make ends meet to be able to support the household. On top of the already arduous task of providing for their five children, they had their capital to pay back and their siblings and parents to support as well.
Maxine recounted how her parents hardly ever took a break from tending to their business, which in turn meant missing some holidays. She could count on one hand how many holidays her parents closed the store to take a break and have some time to just sit down and take a breather. Rain or shine, her parents would brave the weather and the flooded streets to reach their store. She recalled how even when her parents were sick, they trudged on and worked without complaint.
Monty*, too, recalls a childhood where his parents were more like shadows flitting in and out of his daily life. His parents often had to leave early for work or come home late, perhaps big factors as to why Monty grew up not feeling close to his parents. Monty remembers feeling sad whenever he and his brothers would wait until night for their mom to come home from work.
Life threw a curve ball at their family when Monty’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Monty, being young and wide-eyed, innocently believed that the hospitals and doctors had it all under control. Fortunately for the family, Monty’s mom did get better, but not understanding the gravity of the situation at the time left Monty and his siblings blind to the hardships their mother endured. Monty recalled, “A lot of times we would still argue, not realizing [the] pain she [had gone] through.”
It was only later when Monty’s dad confronted him that he realized the magnitude of his mother’s struggles. “Yung nanay mo gustong gusto ng sumuko, pero kayong tatlong magkakapatid lang ang inisip niya para mabuhay siya.” Monty, struck by that conversation, remembered how his mom had lost her own mother at a young age, and how that motivated her to keep fighting so her own children never had to go through the same pain she went through.
(Your mother wanted to give up, only you three siblings keep her going.)
The “little things”
While Maxine didn’t have grandiose stories to share, she reflected on the “little things” her parents did and how those had the greatest impact on her. Sending five kids to school, making sure they had enough to eat, providing them with clothes and other basic necessities meant Maxine’s parents had to forgo the luxuries of life. They had to scrimp every peso they had to give all their children a good education and the head start in life they themselves didn’t have.
But while they may not have had much to show in terms of material wealth, their home and family were overflowing with love. Maxine recalled how on weekends her father would take her and her siblings out to the park where they’d spend the day racing each other on their bikes and just frolicking around. With a nostalgic smile on her face, she shared how with that many siblings around her, her childhood never had a dull moment and was filled to the brim with fun memories.
Victoria* echoed the same sentiments, musing on how the “little things” her parents would do for her, such as heating up her baon, waiting for a jeepney outside the gate with her, and giving them their share of her favorite food, made a big impression on her. She couldn’t recall anything monumental her parents did for her or her sister, but that didn’t matter to her.
She knows that things like conversations in a car ride home and watching television shows at night would be the memories she will cherish for the rest of her life. Sure, grand gestures are appreciated but it’s the small things that make lasting impressions. For Victoria, it is the little actions and inconveniences done without expecting anything in return that express love in its purest form–the kind of love that brings warmth to the heart.
Thank you isn’t enough
Cherish the “small stuff” and make them count because they do matter. Things like the texts and calls from your loved ones asking for updates and telling you to come home, your grandma nagging you to eat more, or your grandpa casually sharing stories from his past are the things we carry with us when we miss them. Cherish the little things, bring them close to your heart, and hold them tight. They add up eventually, becoming part of the big collection of the small things we hold dear.
*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.