Small Things

Broussard and Landry decided to take up flying and so they pooled their meager resources and managed to acquire an old vintage bi-plane.  It was the type that needed two men to start.  One would sit in the cockpit and hit the switch while the man at the front spun the propeller.

Broussard jumped into the cockpit while Landry manned the prop.

“Contact,” Broussard yelled.

Landry heaved all his weight against the propeller and the engine suddenly roared to life.  It happened so fast that Landry didn’t have time to let go of the propeller.

Around and around he spun in furious circles until the centripetal force launched him about thirty feet into a nearby embankment.

Broussard jumped from the cockpit and sprinted to his friend’s side.

“Landry, Landry, Speak to me!”

Landry looked up in a dazed huff and said, “Speak to you?  I pass by you fifteen times and you don’t even wave.”

That little story reminds me of the power of pettiness.  How many times do you get into a sulk over small things?  I’m convinced that the measure of a person’s character is often seen in what it takes to offend him.

I remember a story I read about Abraham Lincoln.  The civil war was going badly for the North.  After the disaster at Bull Run Lincoln placed his hope in a brash young general named George C. McClellan.

McClellan was a meticulous planner and master administrator, but he couldn’t seem to muster the courage to take his shiny new army into battle.

As the days of training dragged on Lincoln grew eager to press the military into combat.

Sometimes in the evenings the anxious Commander in Chief would walk the few blocks from the White House to General McClellan’s home and ask for a progress report.  McClellan hated these nightly intrusions.  How dare this log-splitter tell him how to run his army?

One evening Lincoln and one of his aids paid an unexpected visit to the reluctant general.

A servant met them at the door and said that the General was not in, but that she would inform him when he arrived.

Lincoln and his aid sat down to wait.  Hours went by but the general never showed. Finally Lincoln asked the servant, “What time do you expect McClellan to arrive?”

The nervous servant was afraid to deliver the bad news.  McClellan had arrived hours earlier, but when told about the President waiting in the foyer, he refused an audience and retired to bed.  The servant had been too afraid to tell the President.

Lincoln received the news, quietly walked over to gather his top hat and coat, and moved toward the door.  Lincoln’s aid was incensed.  “Aren’t you going to say something?  This is an outrage!”

Lincoln looked at his loyal assistant and with typical humility replied, “This war is too important to let small personal slights get in the way.  I will see the general another time.”  And with that, he went home.

Greatness is often defined by what it takes to set you off.  Men like Lincoln never let pettiness and small things distract them from their larger goal.  As a result they tended to do big things with their lives.

Petty people, on the other hand, tend to live small lives.

So the choice seems to be fairly straightforward and clear.  “What kind of life do you want to live?”  Do you want to live large and do great things?  If so then you don’t’ have time for pettiness.

Listen to the words of Paul, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Here is your choice.  You can live like Landry and get angry and upset over every small slight.  If you choose that path prepare to live a small life.  Or you can live like Lincoln and refuse to allow small things to get in the way of a great life.  It’s your choice, and you will make it every moment of every day.

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