When You And I Forget How To Be Small

‘Small’ is an unpopular word in our national lexicon. You rarely see Hollywood feature a small movie…. Walmart a small store….the military a small missile…a university a small campus…and, god forbid, a bride plan a small wedding. Big is the name of the game in America. In fact, big is the game.

It was not always this way. Those too young to know and those too old to remember may not realize that America was originally founded upon the principle that even the smallest citizen had the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and his own 40 acres of land.

Indeed, we were originally a land-for-the-small, rejecting the Old World’s idea that only the big and powerful deserved the privileges of the good life. Even though we soon created our own kind of aristocracy [the leaders of the Revolutionary War were from the privileged classes], we loved the Jeffersonian eloquence about the little man. No surprise that our favorite president is Abraham Lincoln whose birth and status was as little as you can find.

Our parents and grandparents mostly lived small rural lives until at least WWI from which we emerged big. After our smashing successes in WWII, bigger still. So that now — as the world’s superpower — being small is mostly admired onlyed in homey Norman Rockwell, Thomas Kinkade and Hallmark illustrations. The real world today is more commonly illustrated by the lives of the rich-and-the-famous.

I was thinking this the other day as I remember some of the more influential people in my own small life. Each of them magnificently small like my worldly-wise uncle working all his invisible life as a tailor in a small backroom in the old Marshall Field….my high school literature teacher who changed his students’ lives without ever really leaving that small third floor classroom….our neighborhood milkman who had this inexplicable little way of turning a customer’s frown into a smile. Together their fame and fortune wouldn’t make a decent obituary…

….proving once again how small big can really be in a life!

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