The Importance of Small

Cast on, bind off—the words a knitter uses when starting and finishing a knitting project.

Michelle Obama, in her book The Light We Carry, in one of the chapters tells us of the importance and the peace of being absorbed in the small, and of the satisfaction of doing and completing small tasks. She writes of the resetting of the mind and the regeneration of self that occurs when doing the small, when we might otherwise be overwhelmed by the big.

At a low point in her life, when the COVID pandemic had struck, when the nation’s people were being assaulted by misinformation, trolls and bots, disparities, and disillusionment, and after Trump had been elected and was seemingly in the process of undoing the good that she and Barack had done during his time in office (30-33), and when the problems seemed too big, which caused her to wonder “Why bother to try?” (33), she bought a pair of knitting needles and casted on.

As she explains, this simple task, away from the world of big problems, and in the rhythmic clicking of the needles, reset her mind to thoughts of her “father, to Southside, to Mamaw” (35). She thought of the “kindness and grace of people helping out their neighbors” (35). She could see events from a quiet vantage point that brought hope back into view (35). As she says, “Shaken by the enormity of everything that was happening, I’d needed my hands to reintroduce me to what was good, simple, and accomplishable” (36).

She writes of the importance of balance, of stepping back from the big and allowing yourself to become absorbed in the small, to know the pleasure of accomplishing a small feat (38). She advises: “Remember to keep laying the small alongside the big. One is a good companion for the other” (44).

Observations of a good woman who has been years in the trenches helping others and working to solve big problems: Know the peace of being absorbed in the small and the satisfaction of accomplishing the small. Cast on, bind off.

⸺ Reference: Michelle Obama, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times (New York: Crown, 2022).

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