“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have returned to this quote many times, and my daughter uses it often to cite a metric for measuring success.   I think ultimately it comes down to the little things, the small garden in the back yard, the hearty laughs and shared memories, the helping hand extended unexpectedly, the raising of healthy children.  And by healthy I mean, and hope Emerson means not just physically healthy but intectually, spiritually, and emotionally healthy children who can grow into healthy adults that understand responsibility, sacrifice, and commitment.  There is no doubt in my mind but that healthy translates into strong children and strong adults who have values, who keep promises, who aren’t afraid of the truth, who can lend a hand or be generous.

  So much of it seems so trite and small but in the grand scheme of things this is what matters most.  Our society has yet to escape the yoke of eighteenth century grand design thinking, you know all the “isms” Darwinism, Marxism, Freudianism, the great Newtonian machinations of science that can be projected forward into infinity and backward to the beginning of time.  It uses great sweeping generalisations to sweep aside any and all individuals and anomalies of data because it is so big in its reach and scope.  

I know people who travel a lot, they are curious about other cultures and other land forms, but I tell you if you spend time in your backyard you can find a plethora of fauna and flora you never knew was back there.  So when Emerson tells us that success is measured by the little things I think he might be onto something, because to tend to the little things is what makes the big things go smoothly.  If you were to look at your life and think about the problems and duress it can usually go back to something in Emerson’s quote that was left undone or disregarded.  The good news is that is never too late to have a happy childhood and to begin today to look after the little things and notice the previously unseen in your life.  I try to find something new everyday in my yard or in my wife and kids and you know what?  I am rarely disappointed.



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