“Little Things,” Sept. 15, 2020

Little things mean a lot. Here’s a memory I’ll not soon forget: I woke in a hotel room, sunlight on my face. Where was I? Why was I there? Slowly, it started coming back to me.

I’d flown thousands of miles to speak at a fundraiser for some worthy cause that, for the life of me, I could not seem to recall. It was scheduled to take place that morning in the conference room downstairs. I’d stayed up late the night before polishing my speech. As keynote speaker, I would talk while everyone else ate, starting at 9:15 sharp.

No hurry. I like to take my time getting ready. I’d set the clock by the bed for 7 a.m. But wait. I hadn’t heard the alarm. Maybe it wasn’t 7 yet? Changing time zones always throws me. I squinted at the clock and read…9:05 a.m.!!

And so it began, a frantic comedy of errors that felt a lot like my worst nightmare. No time to shower, brush my teeth or use a curling iron.
I grabbed my suit out of the closet, then stood horrified staring at my suitcase. The only top I had packed to wear was my husband’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles T-shirt.

Also, I had no shoes. Not the fancy ones I’d planned to wear, or even the ugly ones I’d worn on the plane. I finally found one of the uglies, but not its mate.

If need be, I could speak in a Ninja Turtles T-shirt. With no make-up. And frizzy hair. But not half-barefoot in one shoe.

The clock said 9:15. Time to get serious. I would call the chairman of the event (Fred? Bill? What was his name?) to tell him I was running just a tiny bit late, and ask him if I could please borrow his shoes?

I never made that call. My phone was dead. I forgot to bring a charger. And the room phone by the bed kept telling me to hang up and dial 911.

Just when it seemed it could not possibly get worse, I woke up and realized I was dreaming.

Some days it’s worth waking up to be reminded, no matter how bad things seem, they could be worse. Waking up from a bad dream is a small thing. But it made me hugely happy.

It’s always the little things that seem to keep me afloat—that keep me walking on water when I feel like I’m about to drown.

A phone call from one of my kids just calling to talk. A hug from a grandkid just wanting a hug. A laugh shared with my husband laughing at ourselves. A FaceTime kiss from a toddler babbling “Nana!” A note from a reader saying she and her mother were praying for our safety, hoping our house didn’t burn. A thin patch of blue sky in a thick cloud of smoke. An act of kindness. A word of praise. An answered prayer for help. A quiet reassurance of hope.

Little things change the world.

This summer has been a living nightmare. The pandemic has caused us to live in fear of a deadly virus, profoundly changing our way of life. And more than a dozen states—especially California, the place my loved ones and I call home—have battled wildfires unlike any we’ve ever seen.

In a matter of weeks, my husband and I watched three separate blazes burn near our house. One of them forced us to evacuate for eight days. Thanks be to the grace of God and the heroic efforts of firefighters, our place was spared. But some fifty homes nearby were destroyed.

Fires continue to burn in every direction. Countless lives have been lost. And we’re all wearing masks, not only for Covid-19, but also for toxic smoke.

Years ago, after my first husband died, a friend sent me these lovely words: “Then, when it seems we will never smile again, life comes back.”

I want to believe that one day soon the pandemic and wildfires and other fears will end. We will wake up to find the nightmare is finally over. And life will come back, more beautiful, more precious, than ever before.

Until then, I’ll count on little things to keep me afloat.


  1. stephanie ross says

    I have been a huge fan but in the past six months i must have missed all of your writings concerning social injustice. It’s disappointing you haven’t used your privilege to address the treatment of people of color particularly blacks. You mention the pandemic and fires but apparently social injustice doesn’t register. If you have my sincere apologies as i have been reading anxiously each week for you to acknowledge it and am hurt that something so important to all of us does not seem to matter in your columns. Sincerely Stephanie Scanlan Ross

  2. You are one of the little things for me! I have never met you or even had the pleasure of hearing you speak, but I count you as a dear friend. I am so relieved to hear your home is safe. I have kept you and yours in my heart and prayers.

  3. Sharon, your columns are one of the “little things” that help keep me afloat. I love that you can find love and joy in trying situations. I’m pretty good at doing that myself, but sharing your thoughts and memories makes me even better. Thank you for the laughter and tears that you have shared with me for MANY years. My life is richer for having known you.

  4. Sharla Cameron says

    I absolutely love your columns!! I am sitting in a hotel room in Foley, AL under a hurricane warning, waiting for Hurricane Sal to decide to make landfall. We were forced from our beach house yesterday because Sally veered East. Did I mention, we are from Fort Smith, AR (located no where near a beach😳) and are on the only trip we have been able to take since the pandemic? This is NOT how we anticipated spending our “relaxing” vacation!! But, you know what, we are sitting safely in a nice hotel with lots of food and water! We have our daughter and two grandchildren in an adjoining room, we have each other ( after a 50 year wait!!), we have a deep faith that God is watching over us and protecting us…and we will have an amazing story to tell❣️
    I was actually sitting here watching the weather and seeing the stories of all the wildfires in the west and I was praying for you and your family!! 2020 is one for the record books, for sure!!
    Thank you for writing your stories and thoughts!! I can often relate to so many of the things you say❣️❣️Today-you made my soggy paradise a little brighter!!!
    God be with you and your family🥰

  5. Kate Sciacca says

    There’s nothing better than waking up from one of those crazy dreams… the relief that washes over us is palpable 🙂

    A dear friend of mine writes beautiful lyrics, and one of her songs is titled “It’s the Little Things”.

    It’s the little things that get you a little at a time
    It’s the magic in the moment when you laugh instead of cry
    It’s the bright red of a cardinal, it’s the twinkle in the eye
    It’s the little things that get you a little at a time

    So true, yes?

  6. Kathy Crosbie says

    I love your attitude so much and your stories have made me laugh and cry and just seem to hit the spot alot.. So thank you for you. I have been praying that you and your family and and all affected would be safe during these horrible wild fires. Keep on doing what you are doing. Loving and laughing and telling all those wonderful stories about all your adorable grandkids. Kids are wonderful, but grands are just awesome… Have a wonderful week.

  7. Yes, keep the Faith & count your many blessings! I Sure have been praying for you and all in the fire weary areas. God knows your fears and concerns. He is ever present even in these scary times. “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”

  8. Thanks Sharon. I laughed at this and loved that you gave me the ability to believe that was alright in spite of all that we’re going through in California and throughout the rest of the USA with fires and the virus. We all hope it will all be over soon. Stay safe and thanks again.❤️

  9. Sylvia short says

    Love your attitude! I try appreciating the small things in life also, but then again a hug from my husband or child or grandchild is really a big thing❤️❤️❤️❤️

Speak Your Mind