(Editor's note: General Manager Don Smith is substituting for business columnist Wayne Sheets this week.)
"The little things make a difference."
That old adage always holds true. Whether in a business operation, at home or in a personal relationship, little things matter.
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden, who died last week, began each new season at UCLA with a lesson on the proper method of putting on socks. The reason: If you had a wrinkle in your sock, you would develop a blister, miss practice time, miss an opportunity for instruction and that lack of preparation might cost UCLA a game or a championship. He knew that even college basketball stars on undefeated teams could overlook the importance of the little things. John Wooden understood that little things make big things happen.
In my case, I like the little things because, by intention if not definition, the little things are easy and inexpensive. Something as simple as smiling and speaking to people on the street makes my day better and, in time, usually brings some type of reward. Being friendly and outgoing makes it easy to meet new people and learn new information. In business, as in life, meeting new people and learning new things are keys to success.
When Wayne Sheets gave me this opportunity to address his readership, I decided to share a "little" idea.
These are tough times for a lot of people. Business is slow and resources are tight. Life at home often reflects the stress we experience during the day. As you read this column, the Gulf of Mexico continues to fill with oil from a disaster of unprecedented proportion, financial difficulties persist in Europe, and the national deficit grows at a rate most of us can't even comprehend, leaving our unborn great, great-grandchildren saddled with a debt they had no part in creating. And if all that's not enough, it seems every time you leave the house without closing the windows this week, the wind blows in the rain like an uninvited guest. It's easy to feel helpless in a world where so many things are outside of our realm of control.
So, here's a "little" idea. Instead of using our energies to focus on the problems that are out of our control, I suggest we start concentrating on the little things. Beginning today, let's pledge to work on improving the little things in our neighborhoods and communities. If you see a piece of trash on the sidewalk, stop and pick it up. Hose the dust off of the front of your business or home. Plant some flowers or weed your lawn and, while you're at it, trim the weeds on either side of your property. Wash your windows and those on the vacant business next door. Prepare a meal for your neighbor so they can have a break from cooking.
This weekend, or some weekend soon, take the children or grandchildren, a trash bag and some gloves, and walk around your block picking up trash. Teaching our children the value of civic pride is an investment that will pay dividends for decades to come.
Those are all little, inexpensive things that will improve your life and impact those of your neighbors. If those activities don't work for you, try this: Tomorrow, take time to speak to a stranger on the street. You don't have to have a long conversation, just smile and say, "Hello" or "Nice day." You may just find that it feels pretty good to do a little thing and we could all use something to feel good about these days. Who knows what big things might happen if, as a community, we focus on the little things.
You might have noticed this column is titled "MAD about Elkins." That's the theme of this column and The Inter-Mountain's challenge to you. We're encouraging readers to Make A Difference About Elkins. When you're out and about in Elkins, "Make A Difference." Do something positive. Do a little thing to make life better where you live. We're starting with Elkins, but we want people in Mill Creek, Parsons, Philippi, Harman, Buckhannon, Weston, Valley Head, Marlinton and all the other communities to be MAD about their communities, too.
We're not asking you to donate money or spend the day volunteering at some function. We just want you to do a little thing to make a difference. Pick up trash in your area. Clean up your neighborhood. Wash away the dust and grime. Smile and say hello to a stranger. Set an example for those around you and encourage them to do the same.
The little things make a difference so be proud that you are MAD About Elkins.