Big things, small steps

When it was built in 1962, Seattle's Space Needle was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

It was in the sixth grade when I realized that I liked big things. Growing up in a relatively small town where grade school was a 10 minute walk from home and the public swimming pool a five minute car ride away, my sense of space and scale was somewhat limited. After all, the tallest building, a department store, was just two stories high.

But that changed when dad and I crossed the state to visit Seattle, city of tall buildings, crowded sidewalks and six lane freeways. I remember standing near the base of the Space Needle and looking up at its top some 600 feet above us.

And so my passion for big was ignited. Monuments like the Pyramids and the Sphinx. And Michelangelo’s statue of David and the Sistine Chapel. Titanic. Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose. Symphony No. 7 by Gustav Mahler. The Sunday New York Times.

It’s hard to fully comprehend the complexity and scale of these “big things.” Whether it’s monument, a painting, an airplane or a symphony, they share one common factor: each began with a single idea and a single action that began the building process.

Don’t get me wrong, I like “simple”, too. Simple is good because it’s a good place to start. Take last week, for example.

A friend asked if I’d help with a writing project but, frankly, I didn’t know where to begin. I worried about the “tone” it needed to take, and how many pertinent facts needed to be told. Perhaps it was my zeal for “big” that was making too much of this assignment.

So, I did what every writer (or most anyone facing the situation) does, I put a few words down on paper. They weren’t the right words, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that they were a start from which the right words emerged after only a few minutes. Five paragraphs later, followed by some fact checking and polishing, and it was done! A brief email sent the project on its way.

Brings to mind the nearly cliché quote about a journey of a thousand miles beginning with one step. It is true. If you want to make a change of any size, you have to take a step of any size.

Recently, I’ve been using this idea to gain a greater sense of personal peace. Admittedly, they’re small steps like listening more and talking less. Or showing more patience and trying to make more people “right” than “wrong.” Or encouraging others in what they’re doing.

Will this usher in world peace? No. Will it help? At some level, yes.

For me, peace is a “one gal, one guy at a time” effort. And each day is the day to wage it.

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