Ron Newhouse, a minister and writer, tells of a certain courthouse in Ohio that stands in a unique location. Raindrops that fall on the north side of the building go into Lake Ontario and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, while those falling on the south side go into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. At precisely the point of the peak of the roof, just a gentle puff of wind can determine the destiny of the raindrops. It will ultimately make a difference of more than 2,000 miles in their final destination.
A new year is a time for considering the critical nature of the choices we make. And there is no denying that little decisions make a big difference. I am beginning the new year with a renewed resolve to eat in a healthier fashion. It's more or less like a re-resolution. I spent almost two years losing thirty pounds. I did so by seriously reducing my carb intake. It took me two months recently to gain back half of it. That was the result of what seemed like small decisions: "I'll just eat a half a roll," or "I'll only take a bite of dessert," and those small decisions led to others and others with an increasingly "large" result.
How many clients in A.A. can tell you the first time they took a drink? It was not a significant decision at that moment in time, but it turned out to set a significant course in their lives. Have you watched the TV commercials where victims of a variety of disfiguring cancers show pictures of their beauty in youth and report when they decided to smoke their first cigarette? Again, that one seemingly small decision had life-altering effects. Fill in the blank: When we decide to tell a lie, it may or may not seem earth-shattering at the moment. But usually a second lie is required to cover the first, and a third the second, until honesty is no longer a central component of a person's nature. A man who lost everything because of unethical business practices said to me: "The first time I ciphered money out of a client's account, I lay awake at night, tossing and turning and burdened with guilt. The second time was easier. After a while, I never gave it a passing thought ... until the auditor said he needed to talk with me."
By the same token, to use Newhouse's illustration, little decisions that fall on the other side of the roof lead to an entirely different river. One of the most decent and devoted Christian gentlemen I know said his whole journey of faith began as a child when his mother made a New Year's resolution that henceforth her family would say a prayer before eating their meals. That's hardly life-changing ... except that it set something in motion that eventually changed his life. I read a story of a man who hated a co-worker in his office (and she returned the favor toward him). He made the decision to pretend he liked her. He didn't actually like her, of course, but he decided in their interactions he would act like she was his friend. His change in behavior toward her, even though cosmetic and insincere, slowly brought about changes in her behavior toward him. "Now," he said, "I no longer have to pretend that we like each other. She is the best friend I have in the office, and she calls me her brother by another mother."
Little decisions make big differences. Joshua challenged the Hebrew people to decide. "Choose ye this day whom ye shall serve ...!" January is a great time to do that - a great time to make new and better choices. And they do not have to be major in order to be life-transforming. If a raindrop shifts direction ever so slightly over that courthouse in Ohio, it will completely change its ultimate destination.
- Think about new directions in which you would like to journey in a new year.
- Then consider small steps that can help lead you there.
- Then take them, one small step at a time.
By year's end, you will find yourself in a healthier and happier place than you have been before.