“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” the saying goes. Perfectionists are out, baby, they are so eighties. Be cool, let people move your cheese, don’t freak out man, you’re harshing my mellow. You crazy obsessive types are what’s wrong with the world. Just chillax.
I beg to differ with these lazy albeit stress-free individuals. If we don’t sweat the small stuff, how can we ever hope to take any positive action about the big stuff? If we cannot perform a small, thoughtful gesture on behalf of our fellow humans—say, by replacing a used-up roll of paper towel or toilet tissue with a new one—how on earth can we expect to achieve the more important things, like collectively lowering our carbon dioxide emissions, or being nicer to people who don’t come from our particular demographic?
Show me the child of seven and I will show you the man, the saying goes, somewhat sexistly, but to paraphrase: show me the person who is respectful of other people’s cheese and I will show you a person who is a good citizen of the world at large. How you deal with the small stuff is a window into your very soul and I am judging you, baby.
Do you think those people who choose not to put a new ream of copy paper into the photocopier when it runs out and instead walk away, happy for someone else to have to complete this tedious chore, would inconvenience themselves in order to help reduce pollution?
Are people who chuck their cigarette butts on the ground instead of disposing of them thoughtfully likely to exert themselves to save threatened animal species or even entire ecosystems from extinction?
Would anyone expect a person who pushes their way onto a crowded omnibus without first letting out those who wish to exit to exert themselves on behalf of the poor or downtrodden?
It is precisely because we don’t sweat the small stuff that our planet is facing ruin. Sweating the small stuff shows that you care—about people, about your community, about your planet. Just like making a cup of tea for someone who’s having a rough day is an expression of love and respect, so to is replacing the staples in the stapler when you use up the last one. From little things, big things grow. Respect the cheese of others, and they will respect you.
ALICE CANNON, MELBOURNE