Little things that make a big difference

I am a nervous parent. It is my son’s first soccer game for the season. He has just turned nine so everything is bigger this year. The field is bigger. The goals are bigger. Even the seriousness is bigger.

Yes, the seriousness. We have stepped up from the stumbling enthusiasm of last year’s junior league. My son has apparently been graded into one of the top teams. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m up for it.

We have not yet met his new team. When we get to the field there is a circle of boys doing drills. They are already in uniform. They look like they know each other. They look like they know what they are doing. They look serious.

So there I am, a grown man nervous about interrupting a group of small children. But I pretend to be a confident grown up because I have my son with me who needs to find his team and play soccer.

Some serious-looking heads swivel our way as I explain that this little boy standing next to me is here to join their team. My son is pretty small for his age. He has only been playing for one season whereas some of these kids were born wearing soccer boots. I feel like I am telling the Avengers that they can borrow my Nerf gun.

One of the soccer boys, a kid with long blond hair, steps out of the squad. With genuine warmth he says hi to my son and tells us we need to see a guy called Jeff at the edge of the field to get a team shirt.

It is not a big deal. It is not a ground-breaking moment. It is not something that will ever make the news. It is just a simple interaction, one kid casually welcoming another kid into a soccer team.

A short time later my son has a massive grin on his face because he is playing soccer with his peers. He looks like he belongs on that field. He is an Avenger with superpowers of his own. The other kids have included him as a natural fit into the team. My adult hang-ups seem quite foolish in retrospect.

After soccer we scoot off to catch the final leg of my wife’s marathon around Lake Rotorua.

In a marathon, every bit of encouragement you get along the way is like vital sustenance for the starving, especially in that last 10 kilometres when the body is starting to hurt.

My wife said that there was a guy who followed his partner around the course at intervals blowing a conch shell. It was uplifting for everyone who heard it.

Along the highway I saw a truck with big words painted on the back: “Go Donna you can do it!” Whoever Donna was, I bet Donna did it.

One group took it upon themselves to be the official support team for random strangers. They stood cheering for everyone that ran past. “Go random strangers you are awesome!” said their sign.

They were not looking for any reward. They were just there to add a joyful note into the lives of people they have never met.

In the grand scheme of things it was nothing significant, just like the kid who helped us out on the soccer field. He won’t have had a clue just how much easier he made my day. But that is the point. It is the fleeting moments, the seemingly unimportant ones that send a positive ripple through other people’s lives.

A friendly welcome into the soccer team. A genuine laugh with a stranger. We may never know the extent to which our actions can inject a bit of much-needed warmth into someone else’s day.

We all share this world together so we might as well make it pleasant for each other, starting with the little things.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 8 May 2015. Reproduced with permission.

See also: Good people