I bought a bag of oven-bake fries. The kind with the seasoning on them.
I knew that wasn’t what Mom wanted. She wanted the plain ones. She probably wouldn’t have minded eating the seasoned ones, but my dad didn’t like them, so she’d told me to get the plain ones.
I was distracted. We’d just come from a meeting about cheerleading uniforms. My mind was full of red-and-white pom-poms, not what we were going to eat for dinner that night. I grabbed the first bag of fries I saw.
When the check-out lady rang them up, I saw they were the wrong ones, but I didn’t say anything. It wasn’t a big deal. It didn’t matter. Dad would be put out, but I’d just say I didn’t see it until after we’d gotten home.
It wasn’t a big deal.
Five minutes after walking out of the small-town grocer, I was running down a set of railroad tracks, terrified, out of my mind. We’d been hit. She was broken, fighting for every blood-choked breath as the locomotive’s engine smoldered next to her and the mangled remains of our car.
If I’d have just walked the five yards back to the freezer, grabbed the right bag of fries and had the cashier ring those up instead,
that wouldn’t have happened.
But I didn’t.
The little things matter.
I could have never foreseen where that seemingly innocent enough decision would lead. And I know, on some level, that sometimes things just happen. There are things that are simply beyond our control.
But it’s never escaped my attention – not one day since I came face to face with that train have I not understood – that had I just done the right thing, those few seconds would have changed the outcome of that day dramatically.
Would have changed the outcome of our lives dramatically.
The little things matter.
23 thoughts on “The Little Things Matter.”
Hubby has spoken often about coming to terms with feeling like had he done things differently the weekend his mother was killed that she wouldn’t have been there at that moment and would therefore still be with us.
I’ve struggled with this very same line of thought in regards to my own father’s passing. Had I just taken the time to ask him one question or give him a hug, he wouldn’t have been there, on the road, at the moment when the truck spun out of control…he’d be with us now, right?
Hindsight is always 20/20.
It is the little things that matter. But if I kept up with that line of thinking, the guilt would crush me and the paranoia of every decision would hunt me.
I tell hubby to think of all the things that had to come into play for his mom to be there, at that very moment…think about all the things that had to come into play to ensure my dad was on that very stretch of road, at that moment…and it comforts me because I know then that it was their time to go. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it. I wish it was different but I believe deeply that God called them home for His purpose. That they were needed for their next mission. How can I argue with that? I can’t.
It is the little things but we have to always remember that everything happens in perfection even if we don’t understand it or like it…everything happens for a reason.
I look back at all the things that have taken place in the 20+ years since my Dad was killed. Things that would have never happened had he not died. And I can’t help but realize that however painful and devastating, it was as it was meant to be…because I wouldn’t be here, where I am now, had it not happened just that way…
Just my thoughts…
Lovely post Myndi…blew me away!
Oh, Natalie, it makes me so sad that you’ve suffered so much loss. None of us get through this life unscathed.
You’re so right – sometimes things are just way beyond our reach of control. We have to find a way to surrender to the fact that there are things at work in our lives that we can’t see/touch/feel/hear. As much as there is a right place/right time, there’s a wrong place/wrong time, too.
The thing that’s stuck with me – that was made plain as day to a 12 year old girl all those years ago – was that my willful decisions matter. I made an active choice to do the wrong thing. Sure, it was a small decision. But that wrong decision cost me a lot. And not just me.
I wish it meant I always do the right things now, made all the right decisions. I don’t. Not even close. But I try to carry that reminder in my heart – not to beat myself up over what happened, but to remember to think before I act, to consider before I do.
Big hugs to you and yours, sweet friend. I do love you so!
So beautifully said Myndi when you wrote “not to beat myself up over what happened, but to remember to think before I act, to consider before I do.” Amen to that….
Big hugs to you…and I just luv ya too!! 🙂
Wow, Myndi. I want to give you a hug. That’s a very heavy burden for a girl. On the one hand, controlling the universe, knowing when to take that little trip back to the freezer, can be a powerful resource. But on the other hand, the responsibility of that control would be crushing, since we can’t control it all. What do you choose? When do we let go?
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t beat myself up over it. But I do carry it close. It’s one of those lessons that you never want to have to learn a second time – doing the right thing, right when you should, even if it seems trivial. Because if you do that, then anything that happens after – the stuff that you can’t control, be it good or bad – you can hold with an open hand and clear conscience.
And thanks for the love, sweet friend!
Awe Myndi, yes the little things matter, but that train wasn’t your fault. We all make decisions every day and they all affect others no matter what we decide. Some things are just out of our hands.
Big hugs for you. 🙂
I know a lot of things came into play that day, not just my silly 12-yo laziness. 🙂
The thing I come away with is this: our decisions, good or bad, have the power to affect not only what happens to us, but how we’re able to process what happens to us. If I had went back for the right fries, could we still have been hit by that train? Sure. But I wouldn’t have owned any responsibility – big or small – in what happened. And that would have been a good thing.
On the other hand you might have been a casualty. Fate intervened to keep you safe for a reason, honey. Look at that brood of yours and know you were saved to continue the line of exceptional people. You did what you did for a reason.
Thanks for sharing, Myndi. I hope you don’t still beat yourself up over this. We should learn from life’s lessons, but we must forgive ourselves, just as God forgives us, and move on.
Searching back through my own experiences, what I find is instances when some circumstance I thought was bad at the time ended up preventing something really bad from happening. I always thank God for these.
I don’t beat myself up over it anymore. But I carry the lesson close. It’s taught me that my actions – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant – can have a major impact on how life can be.
I’m immensely grateful for forgiveness. I’m completely incapable of putting to words how grateful.
Holy crap, woman. I’m… I… I gots no words.
Have you ever thought about being a writer?
Ginormous hugs to you. 🙂
Holy crap part deux. Read your other responses, Myndi, and I’m relieved you don’t beat yourself up over it. What a stunning piece of writing and powerful reminder. It will stay in my head for a long time.
This is one of the most heart wrenching and powerful things I’ve ever read in my entire life.
It’s scary isn’t it? Walking around and thinking that every single thing you do, every decision you make – even the little ones – can change the course of your life forever. And even though thinking like that can really get to me and give me full blown panic attacks, you have to think about it in the larger scheme of things. Even the horrible, unexplainable, life-altering things can lead to something more, something better, something totally unexpected.
I’m an only child, but my mom had a daughter before she had me. Her name was Michelle (now my middle name) and she lived until she was eight years old. There was a fire. She was killed, along with her father and her cousin. How my mom ever survived that and stayed the beautiful person that she is, I’ll never know. Or understand. What if my Mom hadn’t been staying somewhere else? What if that weekend Michelle hadn’t been with her father? What if the landlord had installed working fire alarms? What if the back door hadn’t been permanently locked and they were able to escape?
I see that story from the point of view of my mother and the people that knew Michelle. It’s the same point of view that your story provides – the death, the sadness, the hollow hole that must always be in my mom’s heart. But then I see it from my point of view. I literally wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for that terrible, terrible thing that happened. I owe my life to her, that sister that I never knew. It’s something that used to keep me up at night, crying as I flipped through albums with pictures of her in them. Now I’m just in awe. It was for a reason that it happened, that I’m here today. That tragic event brought forth a life that never would’ve otherwise existed. Now it’s up to me to decide what to do with it.
I know you said that you don’t let it get to you anymore, but it’s always there. You always feel it. Just know that so many wonderful things have happened because of that. Things you don’t even realize. Little things. And those are the ones that really matter, right?
Wow, Myndi, this was so powerful. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. The thing is, there are so many “what ifs” – here, the “right thing” could have saved a life, but that consequence wasn’t your choice to make. You weren’t presented with such a choice: you chose to not go back and correct a simple error. But it could just as easily been something bad that came along AFTER you were delayed from making the switch to the right flavor of fries. Who knows what other bad things we avoid by other means, whether or not the underlying impetus was generous or selfish? Just my humble opinion.
Aww, Myndi! I am amazed at your 12 year-old self’s ability to parse out that if you’d just taken a few minutes it might not have happened. That kind of clarity and maturity is amazing. The life lesson takeaway is huge. Our actions do matter. Every single tiny one. I’m with Prudence that you never know… if you’d taken those few minutes, you might not be here today. I, for one, am super happy you are.
Hugs to you, my friend and I’m glad you don’t live with a ton of regret hanging on your shoulders. You are one amazing woman, Myndi. Truly.
Holy cow, girl. Until I read the comments, I thought this was fiction. That is a heavy burden for a girl on the edge of womanhood. No wonder you’re so awesome. 🙂
As others have said before me, I am glad that I had the opportunity to read the other comments. Even it you’ve stopped blaming yourself. Even if you’ve stopped asking the what ifs, its still with you. It seems that when we have something traumatic on that great of scale, it never completely goes away. We wear it like a calloused scar. I’m sorry to hear of your tragic incident Myndi. I sending you a big hug! 🙂
What a powerful piece. I am so sorry for what you have endured, but thank you for sharing and reminding me of the little things. You wrote this and someone who reads it may remember the little things and alter the course of their life. I think God works in amazing ways! Hugs:)
Dear, dear Myndi – Like Jenny, as I read your post at first I thought it might be fiction. I was hoping it was. From reading your comments, I’m relieved to see how you have come to terms with the experience … as much as possible. Hindsight often makes life difficult as we struggle with the ‘what if I had …’ scenarios. We often learn very important life lessons the hardest way and I’m sorry you and your family experienced such a tragedy. By sharing this you have reminded all of us to stop and remember that little things do matter. Thank you for that. *sending hugs*
Wow. In reading that, I kept thinking, please let this be fiction, please let this be fiction. But the comments showed me otherwise. I’m sorry something like that happened to you, especially as such an age. You do well to hold it close, but not take the blame – that is a hard, hard thing to come to terms with. I know, because we had a little thing once, too, and my call left my little sister-in-law dead. I struggle to keep that line clear, and I love that you found the lesson there that can be applied to life, overall.