About 15 years ago, I got my private pilot license. I had no particular purpose for learning to fly but always like learning new things. If it involves going fast and making loud noises, that’s even better.
So I followed the story of Asiana Airlines’ recent crash in San Francisco with great interest: How could experienced pilots apparently have made mistakes that resulted in that loss of life and destruction of that great flying machine, the Boeing 777?
When learning to fly, I found that little variations in my routine sometimes led to mistakes. Talking to a passenger might make me miss a radio call from air traffic control. Seeing another plane on final approach might distract me from setting up the plane properly for landing. Going a little too fast when landing made me touch down too far down the runway.
In the case of whatever went wrong with Asiana Airlines flight 214, I’m betting it was a little thing that cascaded into a tragic chain of events.
If you’ve ever had a car accident, you have pondered little things, too. “If that last traffic light had turned—or not turned—red, I wouldn’t have been in exactly the spot to be hit by that car.” Or “If I hadn’t reached to change the radio, I would have seen the brake lights on the car ahead.”
In “The Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis wrote that the snare of temptation was most frequently the result of little things that go wrong. A boss who has a temper or a meal that is cold or a train that’s late.
But little things can be positive, too.
Getting it right
On my recent trip to Ethiopia, we had a celebration at which participants shared how child sponsorship had worked in the village of Belo. People talked about how additional medical care or educational help or nutritional assistance had helped their children.
Children were healthier because of little things like improved sanitation. Healthier children had better school attendance. Better nutrition meant children were more attentive in class. A positive educational experience meant that children were motivated to study harder and stay in school longer. All little things. But collectively, they had a big impact.
Extra change for big change
Sponsoring a child is itself a little thing. It’s about a dollar a day. Four quarters. The amount you might throw into a parking meter where you live. The cost of a cup of coffee—at McDonald’s, not Starbucks.
If you’re interested in contributing a little thing but making a big difference, look for a child to sponsor today.
Think about the little things that have made a big difference in your own life. Hearing a person who deepened your religious faith. Or talking to someone who told you about the job where you now work. Or the “chance meeting” when you first met your spouse.
Then consider the little things you can do to make a difference for someone less fortunate.