“The Peace of Little Things,” column for May 28, 2013

Lately I seem to spend a lot of time watching little things.

This morning it was quail chicks. There were eight of them, with their mama and daddy, all scratching and pecking at the bird seed on the ground outside my window.

I sit at that window for hours, pecking on a computer like Big Bird in bifocals pecking at seed, pretending to work while really just watching those chicks.

I wish you could see them.

They look like little feathered watermelons, not much bigger than your thumb, doddering around on two spindly legs.

I can’t get my fill of them.

Twice a week or so, when my husband fills the feeders that hang from the pepper tree, he scatters extra seed under the window to lure the birds a bit closer to my eyes. He says he does it to make it easier for the ground feeders to forage.

Maybe so. But mostly he does it for me. I like birds the way some women like jewelry. He likes to keep me well-supplied.

Birds are not the only small things I watch. When I go to Trader Joe’s (my favorite market and home away from home), I stop by the pet store to check out all the pups.

I wish you could see them.

Shelties, Labs, dachshunds, Yorkies. Some of them ignore me. They won’t event sniff my hand. But there’s always one or two that will give me a look that says, “OK, I’m ready, write a big check and let’s go home.”

So I try to explain why I can’t take them home because I travel a lot, they’d be alone and they deserve a better life than I can give them. Then I hang my head and go home to watch birds.

Birds are easier to watch than dogs. They never want to go home with you. And they don’t bark when you leave.

My favorite little things are little people. Grandchildren, for example. Mine, in particular. I wish you could see them.

When I can’t watch them in person, I study photos and videos that their mamas are kind enough to send to me:

Randy, almost 3, reads a book to his baby brother. Charlotte, 20 months, plays with a friend. Henry, one day younger than Charlotte, picks daisies for his mama. And 5-month-old Wiley tries to eat his own foot.

I compare the images, early to recent, to see how much they’ve changed and grown. I pray daily for their health, their safety and their parents. I keep watch over them long-distance until I can watch them again up close.

I love watching them up close. But I like watching other little people, too. All little people.

Yesterday in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s, I watched a very little girl hand groceries, one by one, from her mother’s basket to the clerk at the counter.

Something in that exchange — hand to hand, smile to smile, trusting child to caring adult — made me profoundly happy.

There comes a point in life — after you’ve lived long enough to suffer the loss of people you thought you’d never lose — that you begin to realize, in ways you never did before, that no one lives forever on this Earth.

No one. Not even you.

It’s not a bad realization. Really, it’s a good thing to know. Like candles on an altar or a porch light late at night, it sheds just enough light to make some things clearer and other things easier to bear.

And then, pretty soon, you find yourself spending a lot of time watching little things — birds and babies and dogs and such, little pieces of life.

Thank God for little things.

They remind us that we are part of something bigger, more lasting, more important than ourselves.

They make us smile.

They give us hope.

They bring us peace.

They sing an old song with a two-word refrain that is new every morning: Life persists.

I love that song. We can sing it, too. They will teach us to sing it with them, if we watch them.

Life persists.

And so do we.


  1. Sharon, I read your article on “watching little things” and it is now hanging on my refrigerator.
    When I came to the paragraph where you said, “after you’ve lived long enough to suffer the loss of people you thought you’d never lose,” hit home. Sometimes I sit in my dining room and I remember all the family and one of my dearest friends who passed away in the past years who sat around the table and ate, laughed, played cards and cried with me. I do thank God for little things every day. I’m a bird watcher too! I really enjoyed your article.

  2. Sharon once again your column was wonderful. I look forward to reading it each week. WE just lost a member of our family and your words fit so well. Thank you for bringing a smile to me.

    • Sharon Randall says

      Thank you for your kind words. I am sorry for your loss.
      Grace and peace to you and your family,

  3. This post was at the right time for me also.
    Just got home from the doctor, who gave us another bad report for my husband.
    …now, 2 spots on his lung.
    Life is short, enjoy the small things.

    • Sharon Randall says

      I’m so sorry. Please know that my heart and prayers go out to you and your husband and all your family.

  4. Ken Suchan says


    I read your column every week and enjoy it immensely. But today’s column on “little things” really spoke to my heart. It is the best one I have ever read of yours–and actually one of the best reflections on what’s important in life I’ve EVER read–by anyone. At 73 I now find myself watching the scene you witnessed at the checkout counter and smiling inside myself as well. I am blessed too with 5 grandchildren aged 7 to 17–and now reflect on them at 2, or 3 or 7 doing some extrordinarily ordinary things with compassion and love. I KNOW the world will be an OK place long after I am gone, because they have good hearts and will do wonderfully ordinary things.

  5. Sharon, next time you’re out and about, go by your local animal shelter and let a dog chose you. Save a life, and bring joy to yours. Using the excuse of travel is just that, an excuse. Dogs adapt. Your husband can watch him or her when you travel. Really, there’s a reason God is dog spelled backwards. Open your heart and home to a dog. Especially an older dog. They need love too.

    • I agree with Sharon above in referencing going to a shelter and letting a dog pick you! In your article you mentioned “I stop by the pet store to check out all the pups. I wish you could see them” and later “OK, I’m ready write a big check and let’s go home”. More cases than not, puppies that are sold in pet stores come from puppy mills and in most of those cases the puppies come from horribly taken care of dogs that their only purpose in their life is to breed and breed and breed. Most of the times badly nourished, no medical care, out in the elements year round stacked in cages several high. We adopted a dog that was spared from being euthanized from a horrible puppy mill in Oberlin, Kansas. 1200 dogs were put to death in the fall of 2010 due to distemper. Please promote adoption from shelters and rescue organizations; let’s put a stop to puppy mills! You can read more about “Benny’s “progress on his facebook page Bennycorgipants and his advocacy for rescue and shelter dogs. Thank you!!

  6. Garnett Zamboni says

    Amen to the little things. As time passes by, we start to see, really see life. We participate, we love, we enjoy and we watch. Ever so closely we watch the little things. The activity at the bird feeder always amazes me. Every one enjoying their gifts, and all getting along so well. I often times think that if every one in the world would own a bird feeder, they would be less inclined to fight with one another. The jays eat right along with the wrens; the doves contentedly waddle around, while the squirrels munch on forgotten pieces. Everything in balance and harmony as it is designed to be; such a beautiful gift we have been granted if we will take time to stop and watch. I share your stories with others who do not have a newpaper available, and they too, love the stories. Story tellers are a special gift to our world of wonders. Thank you for sharing your stories with all of us!

  7. Kathleen says

    This column was timed just right for me. I again had to say goodbye to a dear, dear, long time friend. Have spent the last week trying to understand my feelings. You have put them in perspective in your lovely way. So glad Joanna shared it. Your words always touch my soul and my spirit. Thank you!!

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