By Kelly Smith
“Could you spare some change?”
I often hear this request from the residents of a nursing home where I serve. This usually occurs when I walk by the vending machine near my therapy gym. The residents roll up in their wheelchairs and ask for a dollar or seventy-five cents—enough for a sweet bun or a bag of chips. I don’t carry cash with me, so I offer an apology and keep walking.
One day, as we wrapped up his OT session, an unassuming resident mumbled quietly, “Do you have a dime?” I offered my usual excuse of empty pockets. With small shuffles of his feet, he propelled his wheelchair forward. He asked my co-worker, “Do you have a dime?” She pulled a coin out of her money pouch and placed it in his wrinkled hand.
Because gravity and age hold his head down, I could see his smile only from the side of his face. He leaned to the left to slip his treasure into his pocket. A nickel fell out, and he gathered it to tuck both coins in deeper. Fifteen cents wouldn’t buy anything in the vending machine; his request piqued my curiosity.
I asked my co-worker if he always asks for small coins. She affirmed, “People are reluctant to part with a dollar, but they are willing to give him a dime or a nickel. If he asks plenty of people, he eventually gets enough for a snack.”
The craftiness and patience of my quiet friend amaze me. He demonstrates the power of small change. He celebrates a little victory each time he adds a coin to his coffers.
We tend to believe progress requires magnanimous effort. Fad diets and fitness boot camps prey on our desire to overhaul our lives with big changes. But these changes don’t last as we grow weary from the big start and the effort required to maintain such a huge commitment.
What if we were to embrace my friend’s mentality—to seek and celebrate small change? Approach life like a staircase; instead of trying to make a giant leap, take one small step up. This mindset allows us to celebrate small successes instead of feeling let down by gigantic failures.
The power of small change applies to all areas of our lives:
- Instead of trying to eliminate all sugar from my diet, I can forego that bowl of ice cream after dinner each night.
- Instead of throwing out the budget after one bad month, we can commit to decreasing meals out this month from four nights to two.
- Since a weekly date night isn’t easy for us at this stage in life, I can work on my marriage by finding at least one thing about my spouse to praise daily.
- I can’t commit to an hour-long, in-depth Bible study each morning, but I can spend fifteen minutes reading a chapter and praying.
We tend to believe that the harder we try, the more we will achieve. We sprint toward our big finish, tiring out in the first leg of the race. It’s a lesson Aesop taught us with his story about the tortoise and the hare—so simple that we often discredit its merit. Slow and steady wins the race. Small change, when pursued diligently and patiently over time, will yield great rewards.
Do you have a big goal in front of you? Are you overwhelmed by a challenging situation? What small change can you make today to move one step closer?
Kelly Smith is a small town girl who married a small town man. They have three children. In the quiet minutes of her day, you will find her at the keyboard or curled up with a book–always with coffee. Kelly believes we are created for community and loves to find ways to connect with other women who are walking in the shadow of the cross. She blogs at mrsdisciple.com.
Photograph © Jamie Street, used with permission